Thu | Dec 8, 2016

Come back 2017? Patients needing surgeries could wait for three years for KPH appointments!

Published:Sunday | September 7, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer

Two departments at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) are now giving patients three-year appointments for urgent or elective surgeries.

Sunday Gleaner source said those receiving 2017 appointments include persons needing general and orthopaedic surgeries.

A senior medical official at the hospital said it is reeling from a massive backlog as a result of lost theatre time; shortage of surgical equipment; overworked surgeons, doctor shortage, and a malfunctioning elevator.

According to the official, the loss of scheduled theatre time has pushed "reasonable time" for surgeries from months to years.

The official claimed that one upset orthopaedic surgeon has written to "all who will listen" but now appeared to have "given up" as he has received little or no responses and conditions have not improved.

"The most difficult orthopaedic cases are referred to KPH. Every hospital in Jamaica sends patients there for those kinds of difficult surgeries. So there is going to be a backlog. Even the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) sends its most difficult cases there too," said one doctor who asked not to be named.

Orthopaedic surgery

Orthopaedic surgery - a branch of surgery concerned with conditions involving the musculoskeletal system - is used to treat trauma caused by sports, degenerative diseases, infections, tumours, and congenital disorders.

President of the Medical Association of Jamaica, Dr Shane Alexis, said he was not shocked by the revelations and believes the situation was not singular to the KPH.

According to Alexis, while he was unable to speak directly to the situation at KPH, he was reasonably sure that other hospitals are also issuing appointments for periods ranging from one year to 18 months, and even two years.

"The issue of patient appointment speaks to the capacity. If you only have three offices in a clinic then that's what you have. You don't have enough space to put eight doctors anyway. What is needed is an expansion of the sector, proportional to the development of the country," said Alexis.

"So where you have underdevelopment, you must develop other facilities to avoid individuals leaving one parish to come to KPH or University Hospital of the West Indies.

"Upgrade, everything from operating theatres to diagnostic equipment, ultra-sound, CT scans, machines of obstetrics, cancer care-related equipment and a massive overhaul of the primary health-care system, the clinics, so that we can take the pressure off the main hospitals," argued Alexis.

One woman who has been given a 2017 appointment for elective surgery at KPH told The Sunday Gleaner that she was trying to get into the UHWI's clinic as she could not afford the thousands the surgery would cost if she was to do it in the private sector.

Fifty-one-year-old Teresa Minott said she is stricken with uterine fibroids and need to have them removed, as they are causing other complications.

"If I could afford to go to the cheapest private hospital I would go. I would pay about $300,000 with doctors and hospital fees. But the gynaecologists at KPH are good and I want to do it there. But is 2017 appointment I have," said Minott.

Another woman with whom she had struck up a friendship has a 2016 appointment for a similar surgery.

Repeated attempts to contact KPH's Chief Executive Officer Beulah Stephens have been unsuccessful, while senior medical officer at the hospital, Dr Natalie Whylie, failed to respond to questions on the matter.