Sat | Dec 3, 2016

Medical malady - Patients complain about poor treatment but health officials point to shortage of equipment and personnel

Published:Sunday | October 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM
The entrance of the St Ann's Bay Hospital. - Carl Gilchrist photo
A female patient, who was crying in anguish while waiting to be screened at St Ann's Bay Hospital, fell from her wheelchair on to the floor, where she sat in her own vomit.
A security guard and a nurse helping a female patient, who was crying in anguish while waiting to be screened at St Ann's Bay Hospital, after she had fallen to the floor where she sat in her own vomit.
This young woman uses a bench for her bed while being given IV fluid after being admitted to the St Ann's Bay Hospital.
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Ryon Jones, Staff Reporter

A 24-hour unannounced visit to the St Ann's Bay Hospital by a Sunday Gleaner news team has revealed a litany of woes, which suggests that the Type B facility might be sicker than the scores of patients who seek treatment there daily.

The hospital is bursting at the seams with an increase in patient load following the current outbreak of chikungunya, but that is not the main concern of most persons who visit the facility.

With many patients forced to make do with benches and the floor as beds in the severely overcrowded facility, some charge that this is not their greatest concern.

Instead, it is the treatment meted out to them by medical personnel and the shortage of critical material, which the patients say, are posing the greatest challenges.

Having entered the facility with no hassle, the incidents observed in the relatively short period underscored much of what is wrong at the hospital.

At one point, a woman in a wheelchair, who seemed badly in need of care, was left unattended for a significant period until she fell to the floor, wallowing in her own vomit. Only then did a nurse and a security guard attend to her.

Later, a man who entered the accident and emergency area with what appeared to be a chop wound, stumbled and fell. He charged that his hand was broken in the fall. However, a nurse said she could not help him at the moment as there were no splints, so she would need to make one and did not have the time to do so. Another nurse asked how he had broken his hand, and following his response, she hissed her teeth and walked away.

Stunned by the two incidents, our news team was faced with a woman who alleged that a bus had run over her foot, causing her great pain. She charged that the doctor who examined her said nothing was wrong with the foot and gave her no medication despite the pain she was feeling.

Another woman, who was waiting to be screened in the outpatients department, fainted before she was attended to, and other patients told similar tales of horror. One man charged that his daughter had been in an accident on a Wednesday, but when she visited the hospital, a doctor told her to return the next day as she would not get through for that night.

A 44-year-old renal patient, who spent five days on the male medical ward, said: "The treatment isn't bad, but the stench and flies. Plus, that's where they have the men that are sick in their head locked up in a cage. They all fight one another and the noise mek yu all sicker than how yuh go in."

In the wee hours of the morning when patients would be expected to be asleep, activity among the staff seemed high. At 2:10 a.m., a female doctor started shouting a patient's name. She then walked to the door to make one final call before making a hissing sound and saying, "I

don't see why I should be walking looking for anybody."

At 2:50 a.m., a nurse started pushing a squeaky table across the room. Less than one hour later, a male patient started calling loudly for the nurse to assist him to the bathroom. With no help, he decided to go it on his own and was told to return to bed, where he wet himself. By 4:15 a.m., the patients were being awakened as it was time for them to be 'tidied'.

SURPLUS OF PATIENTS

On the
other side of the coin, medical personnel complained that the hospital
was facing a shortage of supplies and staff, leaving them almost
impotent in catering to the needs of the influx of patients who visit
the institution daily. They said this had been compounded by the chik-V
outbreak.

According to a medical source at the
hospital, it is short of sterile gloves, sutures, non-rebreather masks,
oxygen masks, nebulisation chambers, and masks, among other critical
supplies.

But Leon Gordon, chairman of the North East
Regional Health Authority, said the shortage of some supplies was not
unique to the St Ann's Bay Hospital.

"I'm not going to
say that things don't run out, of course you can run out, but the
hospital is not the only place to run out of things," said
Gordon.

"You run out of things sometimes because of
the high usage, and there can be some lapses somewhere in terms of
ordering and delivery process. But is it that you will remain without it
or you take steps to replenish? That is the key question," added
Gordon.

For senior medical officer at the facility Dr
Nicole Dawkins, the hospital is facing unusual pressure at this
time.

"What has come up is the flood, which is a month
earlier than normal. Normally, what we would have done is beef up
things in November, with the expectation of the December rush, so what
we have to do is beef up things now, which is what we have started
doing," said Dawkins.

"We have started peaking in
September, which is unusual, because normally, we don't start peaking
until November," added Dawkins.

She said that the
overcrowding and resultant strain on hospital resources could be avoided
if people with non-critical illnesses sought care at health
centres.

The St Ann's Bay Hospital serves at least
three parishes, with an average bed complement of 139, but with the
rush, some patients are left to their own
devices.

During the visit by our news team, patients
were witnessed setting up makeshift beds on benches and chairs, while
some just went without sleep. One patient quipped that it would have
been better in a morgue as "at least you would get your own
space".

A woman who had had a miscarriage managed to
soldier on for the duration of her stay at the hospital. "I didn't sleep
at all last night as there was no bed. I had to sit up for the
night."

Dawkins argued that the problem was not with
the number of beds, but the limited space in which to situate them, plus
the patients who remained at the hospital after being
discharged.

"It is not a bed issue; it is a ward space
issue, which is why we had a ward expansion. It has not remedied the
issue totally because there are still other issues as it relates to the
use of beds. Up to this morning, we had about 12 patients who have been
discharged but have not gone home. So that's one set of beds that is not
turning over fast," said Dawkins.

In the meantime,
one man, who claimed he had been at the hospital since 7 a.m. on
Wednesday, was not seen by a medic until 5 a.m. Thursday, at which time
he was admitted. He was seen leaving the hospital not long afterwards,
claiming: "I don't nyam weh dem a serve in deh."

The
quality of food at the hospital was a major complaint of several of the
patients and one that the SMO did not dismiss.

"We
don't have a decent canteen, so if patients are not on a strict diet and
they don't want what is provided, they have the option to get their
own. We ... have some vendors on the outside who are selling more
variety than we, so we allow them (patients) to go out and come back,"
explained Dawkins.

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com

Photos
by Ryon Jones