Fast-paced health care - Reduction in Waiting Time Project launched
The Reduction in Waiting Time Project, intended to significantly slash long periods that patients spend waiting for treatment at public-health facilities, was officially launched yesterday at the Bustamante Hospital for Children (BHC) in St Andrew.
"The public sector is renowned for long waiting periods," stated Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton. He added that the ministry was mandated in April 2016 to decrease waiting time in Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments.
The proposed strategies to achieving this mandate include speeding up the triage process by which patients are assigned their order of treatment or urgency of ailment and extending the primary health-care clinic closure hours from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
It was disclosed that the majority of persons who show up at A&E departments do not require emergency care and can seek primary health care at a clinic.
The project was implemented at the BHC in September 2016. Data from the Ministry of Health showed that of the more than 7,000 patient encounters that occur at triage each month, on average, only 4,500 patients require emergency care. Thus, more than 2,000 patients per month can be directed to primary health-care services.
The project, which commenced at the Glen Vincent Health Centre in June 2016, has resulted in the number of patients seen in the extended hours doubling from just over 200 to almost 500 per month. The overall numbers seen at the health centre are also increasing.
"On average, most patients wait zero to two hours to triage, and with the launch of this project, we aim to get this down to 30 minutes," the Ministry of Health said.
Since the pilot study began in March, approximately $350 million has been spent across seven hospitals to bolster services such as additional staff and equipment, improving waiting conditions, and increasing efficiency in the emergency departments.
The hospitals involved in the initiative thus far stretch across seven parishes: Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine, St James, Clarendon, St Ann, and Manchester. The hospitals are Kingston Public Hospital, Spanish Town Hospital, the Bustamante Hospital for Children, Cornwall Regional Hospital, May Pen General, St Ann's Bay Regional, and the Mandeville Regional Hospital.
"The qualitative experience has been greatly enhanced," was the general consensus by medical experts in attendance at the launch.
Senior Medical Officer at BHC Michelle-Ann Richards-Dawson told The Gleaner: "It's an excellent initiative. It is something that is well needed."
"The project has given us an opportunity to enhance key areas for a better patient experience," Director of Emergency Medical Services Jacqueline Bisasor-McKenzie told The Gleaner.
While acknowledging that the project was still in its initial stages, Tufton stated already, there were signs of improvement. He added that similar projects would be launched islandwide in the upcoming weeks.