Train schoolchildren in first aid - Dr Ashley
Dr Deana Ashley, former senior medical officer in the Ministry of Health, is proposing that children in schools across the island be trained in first aid.
"Every schoolchild should be trained as a first-aider," Ashley told the audience during a Cost of Care and Data Mapping Forum held yesterday at the Courtleigh Auditorium in New Kingston.
The research - carried out by the Ministry of Health, the Violence Prevention Alliance and the Mona GeoInformatics Institute - analysed the burden of violence- and motor vehicle-related injuries on hospital services across the island, with emphasis on the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI).
Ashley suggested that children over the age of 10 should be trained and retrained every two to three years as first-aiders.
This, she said, would build a population within the community that can carry out first response in the event of an accident at home.
"If we don't talk about prevention, we are going to be building more hospitals and having to spend more at the secondary and tertiary levels, and we will never make any gains," she argued.
She recounted that the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management had proposed to train first-aiders at the community level more than 15 years ago.
"I think there was an initiative with Red Cross," the former senior medical officer said, adding that if the country had to pay for that training, the cost would be prohibitive.
Speaking during the forum, Dr Hugh Wong, head of the Accident and Emergency Department at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH), said there was a misconception that the public-health service provided pre-hospital emergency medical services.
He stressed that the public hospitals do not provide pre-hospital emergency medical services, noting that: "If you call a hospital for help and you need an ambulance, you are going to get an ambulance driver and attendant. These are not the persons you want, and that is the reality. Don't have a motor-vehicle accident and call KPH for an ambulance. The ambulance is going to come with a driver and an attendant."
The senior medical practitioner said that a pre-hospital emergency medical service was first established in the 1980s, where persons were trained through the fire service. He said a small part of this system still exists in western Jamaica.
"The problem is [that] there is paralysis and there has been no improvement in that system," Wong declared, saying funding was needed for this programme to be expanded across the island.
He said the regional hospitals such as St Ann's Bay, Mandeville and Cornwall needed upgrading so that they could provide the care that KPH is now providing.
Wong said the transfer of patients from these hospitals to the KPH is resulting in increased burden on the Kingston-based hospital.
In his comments, Dr Trevor McCartney, UHWI medical chief of staff, proposed the development of trauma units in the major hospitals across the country. He said there should be units trained specifically to deal with multiple trauma.
This, he said, would produce better results at a cheaper cost and would make a significant improvement in the morbidity and mortality rates.
He said the UHWI is in the final stages of completing the development of a programme which will start in early 2016, to train first responders, specifically in the emergency detection of injuries and the first line of treatment.
"This is very important to try and reduce the number of on-the-scene deaths and also begin the resuscitative process earlier to decrease the morbidity."
Dr Tamu Davidson, director of chronic diseases and injuries prevention in the Ministry of Health, said the emergency and disaster preparedness team in the ministry was working along with other persons in the health sector on the proposal for the upgrading of the facilities and training of personnel to provide pre-hospital emergency health care.