Sat | Aug 18, 2018

KPH surgery mess deepens

Published:Sunday | September 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Baugh blames SERHA, Ferguson for woes

Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer

Patients at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) who are now being given 2017 appointments for surgery could consider themselves lucky, as indications are that by November, new patients will be given 2018 appointment dates.

According to a source at the hospital, the 2017 dates are almost exhausted, and the frequent breakdown of the main elevator at the hospital has forced several scheduled surgeries to be delayed, adding to the backlog.

Last Tuesday, the main elevator, which is used to move persons and items to the operating theatres, failed for the 20th time since the start of the year, forcing the cancellation of some surgeries. After being fixed last Wednesday, it was down again on Thursday.

This prompted outrage from the opposition spokesman on health, Dr Kenneth Baugh, who described the situation as untenable.

According to Baugh, the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA) and Health Minister Fenton Ferguson are to be blamed for the long-standing problem.

"A functioning elevator is critical to the hospital's ability to conduct surgery. It is the elevator which takes the patients to the operating theatres, and my understanding is that these elevators are regularly out of service, sometimes for days and weeks," Baugh told The Sunday Gleaner.


"To the best of my knowledge, about four months ago, that one elevator that they need to move patients to the operating theatres and back had broken down. The other elevators that persons depend on had also broken down. And when that happens, everything stops. It is frustrating for the doctors and patients. It must be," added Baugh.

"I know the other elevator had also broken down and there were plans to fix it. I was told that the elevators were badly in need of maintenance, but because they were so heavily trafficked, it was hard to maintain them. Obviously, they were unable to fix them, but we can't run a hospital like that, especially the nation's most trafficked hospital," declared Baugh.

"Almost every day, someone gets trapped in the elevator because it shuts down, including with patients for surgeries, and staff, too. Every day somebody has to be called to fix it. Fixing it so often has to be bleeding the hospital. You fix it today, and two hours later, it breaks down," said an exasperated hospital source.

In June, elective surgery was suspended at the KPH because the elevator was down, but SERHA reported that it was repaired as part of an elevator modernisation project being implemented at the hospital at a cost of more than $30 million.

The long wait for surgeries, mainly orthopaedic, has been blamed on a shortage of surgical equipment, the frequent unavailability of the operating theatres, overworked surgeons, and a shortage of doctors.

Since last week, our news centre has tried without success to get the authorities to respond to the frustration being voiced by patients who have been given 2017 appointments for surgery.

However, sources close to Health Minister Ferguson say he was told of the long surgical delays early in his tenure in 2012 and tasked a senior medical doctor to investigate the matter and report to him on what could be done to improve the situation.

"To the best of my knowledge, that report is yet to be turned in. If it has been completed, it must be yesterday," said one source.