Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Homes for the healthy - Tufton moves to get abandoned persons out of hospitals and into halfway houses

Published:Sunday | May 1, 2016 | 5:00 AMErica Virtue

Non-governmental organisations, especially those that contribute to the health sector, are to be asked to play a major role in assisting the Government to transition hundreds of healthy individuals abandoned by relatives in local hospitals.

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton told The Sunday Gleaner that charitable organisations, such as Food For The Poor, with a proven track record of building houses, will be part of a new programme to construct halfway houses to assist individuals who occupy spaces needed by the critically ill.

Missionaries of the Poor, run by Father Richard Ho Lung, will also be part of the discussion about finding solutions.

"Food For The Poor is the single largest contributor, and Missionaries of the Poor ... but there are at least 200 other organisations that offer contributions annually," said Tufton.

"We have to better coordinate those operations, and we may be asking organisations to concentrate on specific areas. So, instead of flooding (the system) with large amounts of the same products, we will be asking each to contribute specific things," added the health minister, who asked for patience as he makes his rounds in the sector.

 

ABANDONED

 

Currently, 785 of the 4,800 bed spaces across all hospitals are being held by individuals who the ministry said are fit enough to be discharged but are homeless and destitute because relatives have abandoned them.

Tufton said that, during a meeting last weekend in Florida, United States, he held discussions with some charitable organisations on the issue.

New approaches are also being explored to deal with the long-standing problem, and best practices will guide the ministry's policies, Tufton said, noting that public-run infirmaries are unable to accommodate any of the individuals as they grapple with their own problems.

"We are trying to see how best we can work with both to provide halfway houses, because the infirmaries are overcrowded and short of beds," said Tufton.

Another option the minister said would be discussed is a national health insurance scheme to which individuals make a contribution and from which hospitals would be able to make a claim.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com