Extended surgery hours now in force at UHWI - Ministry keen to reduce backlog
The thousands of Jamaicans awaiting elective surgical procedures now have renewed hope with yesterday's official launch of an extended surgery hours project at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI).
The initiative, the third in a series of strategic moves by the Ministry of Health, is geared towards significantly reducing the lengthy waiting period encountered by patients at public health facilities.
Through discussions with the Association of General Surgeons and the board of the UHWI, the hours of operation to perform elective procedures at UHWI was extended in October from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The UHWI performs 10,000 surgical cases yearly, while the public health sector recorded upwards of 66,000 for 2015, a figure well below the desired throughput based on the number of persons on the waiting list.
To reduce the backlog of more than 2,000 persons waiting more than two years for elective surgery, the UHWI will be offering the extended services to patients from other public hospitals.
As it stands now, in the initial stages, and given the ever-expanding waiting list, the intention expressed by Dr Carl Bruce, medical chief of staff at the UHWI, is for patients to wait a maximum of six months.
$800 MILLION SPENT
James Moss-Solomon, chairman of the UHWI board, disclosed that since the start of the calendar year, approximately $800 million has been spent on acquiring or upgrading major equipment at the hospital.
The Anaesthesia Department was also bolstered through the addition of two consultants.
Bruce further expressed optimism that waiting times for surgery could be as narrow as three months once the backlog has been cleared islandwide and the programme is in full swing.
In speaking with The Gleaner, he said: "If you have hernia, you should not be waiting more than three to four months. For those persons out there awaiting elective surgery, make it known to us and try to get your name on the waiting list for the extended periods."
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said he intends to initiate the project in other public facilities in early 2017.
Tufton also stated that the additional medical personnel needed have already been approved and have been arriving from overseas in batches.
In speaking with The Gleaner about the initiative at the UHWI, Tufton said: "I'm happy that we are able to start with UHWI, because UHWI has the capacity given that it's the key tertiary-level institution. Linked with the University of the West Indies (UWI), it has more technical expertise and is able to model the extended hours quicker, thus allowing us to determine how we can get the programme into the other areas."
Initiating bi-lateral arrangements with governments who recruit heavily from Jamaica, such as the United Kingdom, is also on the cards.
This in an attempt to have exchange programmes where qualified nurses would be able to go to certain jurisdictions to get critical-care training and qualifications.
In commenting on the affiliated costs of full implementation, Tufton said: "We're assessing the cost implications. In considering the equipment, the shift system with doctors and nurses, the blood bank to be open, it will run into a few hundred million dollars. Right now, I'm about throughput, getting patients attended to by a doctor and doing it in a humane and fair way irrespective of their income level."
Proposed procedures during the extended periods
- Uterine fibroids
- Prostate disease
- Colorectal procedures.
Subcommittee commissioned by the UHWI to ensure proper management and support
- James Moss-Solomon, UHWI chairman
- Kevin Allen, UHWI CEO
- Dr Carl Bruce, medical chief of staff
- Dr Hyacinth Harding, head of anaesthesia
- Dr Carole Rattray, head of obstetrics and gynaecology
- Claudette James, senior director of nursing
- Sister Janice Smith, clinical nurse manager
- Fitzgerald Mitchell, director of operations and facilities