Pressure on children’s hospital - More than 160% increase in patient visits last year
With the Ministry of Health reporting a 162 per cent increase in the number of visits to the Bustamante Hospital for Children (BHC) in 2017 when compared to 2016, senior medical officer at the facility, Dr Michelle-Ann Richards-Dawson, is encouraging parents to implement home therapies early to help with common illnesses such as the flu.
According to Vitals, a quarterly report produced by the Ministry of Health, visits to the BHC's accident and emergency/casualty department increased from 19,907 in 2016 to 52,067 in 2017.
The hospital also conducted 1,213 major surgeries and 351 minor surgeries between January and December 2017.
"For the rainy months, we have a lot of asthmatics and children with upper respiratory or lower respiratory tract (infections), meaning pneumonia. We do also have seasonal increases in infectious cases, and that is very common in children," Richards-Dawson told The Sunday Gleaner.
"We tend to have a spike between September and March, and that usually tends to follow the influenza, the flu season, the gastroenteritis season and those conditions. Especially the respiratory conditions may trigger children who have underlying asthma and, therefore, those are the two major burdens on us at that time," added Richards-Dawson.
She is urging parents to try to administer care from the earliest sign of a problem. So for asthmatic patients, they should start using puffs or inhalers and should have their child avoid triggers such as cigarette smoke or smoke from the burning of garbage.
"Parents need to understand about the common cold, the common flu, how to treat gastroenteritis in terms of fluid administration, what the danger signs are and when to get the child into the hospital," said Richards-Dawson.
She said the hospital needs additional beds as it has increased its surgical offerings.
The hospital now has 253 beds, and according to Richards-Dawson, "We would need at least another 180 to probably 200 beds because we know that the population is growing and also the non-communicable diseases (such as) cancer."
Most of the hospital's surgeries are ambulatory, so it means that the children spend less time on the wards.
The hospital also conducts a number of orthopaedic, neurosurgery ear, nose and throat surgeries annually.
According to Richards-Dawson, there is also a need for some amount of infrastructural upgrade to meet the growing demand for services.
One change she would love to see is the creation of separate lines for emergency and urgent cases. This would mean that those with urgent cases are still attended to while doctors are treating with emergency cases.
"It is something that we are really working towards, but you really need the full complement of staff that you can deal with the number of patients," said Richards-Dawson.
She has also called on parents or caregivers to take the children to the hospital early, as the current trend is for the hospital to see a rush in the evenings leading to longer wait for them to get treatment.
"When there is a significant increase in our patient load, you are going to have a longer waiting time; that is going to be naturally so. But the emergencies take precedence, and sometimes we have a significant number of patients who seek care at the hospital as the first line of contact and so, therefore, those which are not emergency cases would have to be triaged and then have to wait to be seen," said Richards-Dawson.
BHC 2016 vs 2017
Emergency/casualty department visits 19,907 52,067
Admissions: 10,482 11,017
Average length of stay 6 days 6.3 days