Abandoned at hospital | Healthy, homeless, hospitalised - Discharged persons not collected by relatives
The average hospital stay is three days, but Joseph Graham has already spent 13 months at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) despite being discharged, following treatment for a dislocated hip.
Graham now calls the downtown Kingston-based hospital home as his family members have refused to take him.
The 49-year-old is just one of more than 700 patients who have been abandoned by their families in public hospitals across the island.
At the KPH, patients have been abandoned for as long as five years, but Graham is hoping that 2017 will be the year when someone comes to claim him.
“Deep down, it is not my will to be here and I don’t really want to be here either,” Graham told The Sunday Gleaner.
With gunshot victims coming in on a regular basis and myriad patients dealing with complications ranging from chronic illnesses to neurological challenges, the hospital is always in need of bed spaces, but Graham has been occupying one of these beds.
“Sometimes when I look at it still, I am just sorry I can’t move, because sometimes I see the strain on the doctors and the nurses when they trying to board the patients them,” said Graham.
Administrators at the KPH are currently struggling to find placement for 35 patients that have been lumped under the ‘social cases’ category because they still live at the hospital despite being considered healthy enough to go home.
For the past year, Graham has been fed and cared for by hospital staff. He washes his few pieces of clothes with water provided by the staff and soap powder purchased with money his brother leaves for him every now and then, with someone at the hospital gate.
Graham’s brother was, up to last February, his only visitor, but then he stopped visiting because he reportedly feared he would be pressured into taking Graham home.
His medical woes started in 1990 when he was shot in one of his legs by an unknown assailant. That affected his ability to continue working as a taxi driver and resulted in him spending thousands of dollars in medical bills. Eventually, he started developing ulcers on both legs, and in 2013 things took a turn for the worse.
“I was home the whole time in 2013 for almost a year and I got in arrears with my landlord until he threatened to take me to court,” said Graham, who then went to live with his sister.
He recalls going to bed one night while at his sister’s house and waking up to the realisation that his hip was not moving. He was then admitted, treated and discharged from KPH, but when he went back home, he was told by his sister that she could no longer accommodate him.
Graham said he went back to the hospital and was placed in a wheelchair in the lobby area. Hospital staff asked members of the police force to escort an ambulance which took him back to his sister’s house. But despite pleading with her for hours, the cops were unable to get her to relent, and he eventually went back to the hospital, where he has remained since.
The former taxi operator had three sons, but one died. One of his offspring is a teenager while the other is an adult and is believed to be in the police force; at least, that was his intention when he and his father last spoke.
“They tried to get in touch with him but he is just neglectful, him don’t come,” said Graham, whose son is aware that his father is living at the KPH and had promised in the past to visit.
“I don’t know exactly know where he is,” he said.
Graham said he used to feel down when he saw other patients being visited by their loved ones, but he has since come to accept the reality of his situation. His change in attitude is partly because he has been spending most of his time reading his Bible.
PEACE OF MIND
“First it used to affect me, but I’m telling you, it’s like when you come in contact with Jesus, it’s like right now I have a peace of mind; it’s like nothing doesn’t bother me again,” said Graham as he declared that he desperately wants to leave the hospital so he can get baptised and enjoy a change in his daily routine.
“Normally, you get up in the mornings, you get some water and you tidy and you lie down, and you get your breakfast and lie down back again, and you get your lunch, your supper and just lie down back.”
In the meantime, Beatrice, one of the persons abandoned at the KPH, is also eager to leave. The 64-year-old was admitted last September after suffering a stroke, but no one has yet come forward to take her home.
“I don’t want to live in a hospital,” Beatrice told our news team.
She said she was living with one of her daughters who died, and her remaining seven children have for the most part abandoned her.
“Everybody big and deh pon them own a live them life and can’t bother with mother,” said Beatrice before adding, “From I get the stroke, nobody don’t want to bother with me.”
She said one of her granddaughters visited her once, but hers is the only familiar face she has seen since she was admitted.
It is the hospital’s ward assistants who have assumed the responsibility of providing her with toiletries, companionship and even the dress she had on her back the day our news team visited her.