Task force set up to relocate 'social patients'
Dr Winston De La Haye, the chief medical officer in the Ministry of Health, says a task force has been appointed to address the chronic issue of patients who have been discharged from hospitals but have refused to leave.
According to De La Haye, because the patients fall in the category of homeless persons, the task force would examine their situations as well as the question of mental health.
"We are collaborating with the board of supervision in the Ministry of Local Government, which has responsibility for all infirmaries across the island," said De La Haye. "The general understanding, for which we are now writing up a memorandum of understanding, is that these patients from the hospitals would be removed to facilities around the country and within existing infirmaries where there is space."
Medical facilities across the island are now being seriously affected by these 'social patients' who live on the wards and utilise the facilities' resources, despite having been discharged. In some cases, these patients make the hospitals their home because they have been abandoned by their families.
At the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) in Montego Bay, some 30 patients who have been discharged continue to live at the hospital, benefitting from food and accommodation. This results in a shortage of bed space for genuinely sick patients, who are oftentimes kept in the facility's Accident and Emergency Department under less-than-ideal conditions.
While he could not speak specifically about the arrangements at the CRH, De La Haye said that it was one of the facilities covered under the task force's mandate.
"The task force would build out spaces at infirmaries, in collaboration with Food For The Poor, or, where there are spaces now, we would move these persons into these infirmaries, which is where they need to be because they are homeless," said De La Haye.
In June, chairman of the Western Regional Health Authority Tony Hart said that arrangements were in place to remove the social patients from CRH to a poor-relief facility in Montego Bay.
"We are working on it right now, and I would say that in a couple of months, we will have it done since it takes time to put it together," Hart said at the time.