Wed | Sep 23, 2020

Gleaner Editors' Forum | Cornwall Regional Hospital open for business ... despite longer wait, reduced services

Published:Friday | June 1, 2018 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue/Senior Gleaner Writer
Cornwall Regional Hospital.

The beleaguered Cornwall Regional Hospital - the largest medical facility in western Jamaica - remains open for business, but patients should brace for longer waiting periods and reduced services at the St James facility.

Officials of the hospital told a Gleaner Editors' Forum last Thursday that despite the challenges, the hospital is still offering the best care it can, and support from the Ministry of Health has made their job somewhat easier.

Acting chief executive officer at the hospital, Alwyn Miller, said the focus, in recent months, has been to relocate the services in the main building with 90 per cent of services now restored.

"We are offering all the services but on a scaled level. Previously, we had a bed complement of 428; we are currently down to about 250 (between Cornwall Regional and Falmouth hospitals). Our goal is to bring that up to 75 per cent of the previous complement," said Miller.

"All in-patient services are off the main building, meaning that where patients are hospitalised in wards, etc, they are now located in wards that are off the building.

"In terms of the services that remain on the building, they are limited to support services, general stores, morgue and maintenance," added Miller.

He pointed out that radiotherapy also continues to provide service, but the plan is to relocate existing support services and some equipment that remains on the building.

The Trelawny-based Falmouth Hospital, which has come to the rescue of Cornwall Regional, and which received an injection of capital and facilities for the Cricket World Cup in 2007, is now providing operating theatre usage for its St James-located sister hospital.


Aiming to maintain proper patient care


Clinical coordinator at Cornwall Regional, Dr Delroy Fray, said significant juggling had to be done to maintain proper patient care.

"Emergency services were re-established within the first month to an area on the compound. Our clinics were relocated to the West Jamaica Conference (premises); we retrofitted that area.

"We are working at more than 90 per cent capacity as it relates to clinics. Laboratory services were established in retrofitted containers, and the data now show that we are over 90 per cent there," Fray told Gleaner editors and reporters.


Patient care at the heart of Cornwall Regional efforts

Anthony Smikle, special projects director at Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH), has indicated that the longer waiting periods expected at the facility are not desirable, but patient care is at the heart of all they do.

The CRH is currently undergoing a refurbishing exercise spurred by longstanding concerns over noxious fumes that have been making staff sick.

"We have gotten support from the Ministry of Health in the form of resources. We have had to employ additional drivers, security personnel, porter services and housekeeping staff, who have to be monitored.

"In the case of drivers, they have to be behind the wheels certain number of hours, because they are transporting staff and patients," Smikle told a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the newspaper's North Street, Kingston, offices.

He said it required teamwork of the highest order to move individuals and equipment to seven different facilities on a 24-hour period every day of the week.

"Moving from a 10-storey where you have all the facilities in one place to seven locations, it is very tough. That is why we are working as a team to try to minimise the time we are out of the building, because it is challenging. It is very challenging," said Smikle.

He added: "Trips have to be made on a 24-hour basis. You have to get the patients to Falmouth and get them back. Transporting patients to private facility for some of the diagnostic services, it is a constant assessment, looking at any hiccups that can happen, so that the patients' ultimately are not in a worse-off position."

One 30-seater bus and another in the next month, three 15-seaters, two additional operating theatres and five ambulances have assisted the process, and in the choice between elective and emergency services, emergencies won.

The Cornwall Regional team noted that obstetrics and cancer patients receive priority over other illnesses such as hernia.