'It's an honour serving here' - KPH doctors record milestones under trying circumstances
While admitting that the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) has a lot more to do in terms of strengthening its infrastructural capacity, Dr Natalie Whylie, senior medial officer (SMO) at the institution, believes the achievements outweigh the gaps that exist.
Among those she highlighted were the largest ophthalmology unit, the largest dialysis unit, being recognised recently as a centre of excellence in sclerosis surgery, and being the first facility in Jamaica and in the Caribbean to have done renal transplant. These are milestones that she thinks are reasons to celebrate as they commemorate 240 years of existence.
In an interview with The Gleaner, the first female SMO said that training and patient care were specialities that the 240-year-old institution highly values.
"KPH is the final referral centre for the island of Jamaica, the English-speaking Caribbean, and the diaspora. We are known for trauma and surgery, but we are a well-recognised teaching institution. We are also an important centre for training of surgical and medical specialities as well. I think that is an area where we shine," she said.
"The trauma work, we do almost 90,000 surgical procedures per year. Every single day, almost 2,000 patients come through our emergency room and our outpatient clinics. We have a very rich history of service, which, perhaps, needs to be recognised a little bit more," she continued.
Making reference to the theme 'Celebrating 240 Years of Excellence - A Legacy of Healing the Nation', she said that the hospital has played an important role in the history of Jamaica and the history of Kingston, in particular, an achievement she is proud of.
Newly appointed CEO Errol Greene said he has learnt a lot in the short space of time and plans to collaborate with various stakeholders to strengthen weak areas.
"It means a lot to me to be here at this time, and, particularly, when I remember that the KPH is as old as the United States, it bears a significance for me. We sometimes see the negatives in the news, we sometimes come to visit loved ones and relatives, but we really don't understand the work that goes into making a hospital operate. It is really an intricate exercise," Greene told The Gleaner.
"A lot of people say they won't go to the public hospitals because is pure gunshot and knife wounds get treated [there] and those people get priority over 'decent' people. I am understanding now, though, that it is all about a life. Everyone's life is just as important. Your life is not more important than someone who happens to be caught in a crossfire. We have to understand these things," he said.
Being a practitioner at the hospital for close to 12 years, Dr Karen Phillips said it has been an interesting journey, but one which she will value as many lessons have been learnt.
"It certainly is an honour to be offering care at an institution which is so steeped in history and an institution which has been delivering health care to the populace for so many years. Two hundred and forty years is indeed a long time," Phillips said.
We see patients everywhere. Despite recent attempts to strengthen and build primary care, we still end up seeing primary and more advanced care patients. Throughout the years, we have done a lot to offer care to the population, and I think, moving forward, there is a lot more that needs to be done. We can commend ourselves for the job we have done because we have worked - and continue to work - in sometimes austere situations," she said.
"I think things might be looking up. I think we can look towards a future where we hope that we can offer even better here, as more resources become available and as we stay committed to the task."