Sun | Dec 8, 2019

Editors’ Forum | Bustamante A&E set-up perfect for a clash

Published:Friday | November 22, 2019 | 12:15 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Carmen Johnson, president of the Nurses Association of Jamaica, addressing yesterday’s Gleaner Editors’ Forum. Shorn Hector/Photographer
Carmen Johnson, president of the Nurses Association of Jamaica, addressing yesterday’s Gleaner Editors’ Forum. Shorn Hector/Photographer

Health-sector stakeholders have faulted the Government’s failure to invest in customised medical facilities as a key contributor to Accident and Emergency departments becoming a powder keg of emotion, marked by the anger of patients and the fatigue of staff.

Dr Shane Alexis, junior opposition spokesman on health, has cited the recent clash between a medical doctor and politician mother at the A&E section of the Bustamante Hospital for Children as a prime example of a perfect storm.

“We have not invested in our structures in a meaningful way in many years. Breaking ground and announcements are not saving lives, and this transcends both political parties,” said Alexis.

“The A&E at children’s hospital was a temporary building. It is not designed to be an A&E. It also is poorly designed in that it should be like a control tower. It should be a central place so you can look around and see that the little lady drop off the bed and is gasping for air or the child is turning blue,” Alexis, a former president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors’ Association, told journalists during a Gleaner Editors’ Forum at the newspaper’s North Street offices on Thursday.

He went on to explain the set-up at the Arthur Wint Drive hospital, which sees upwards of 80,000 children in the A&E each year.

“Children’s hospital is a waiting area, a hallway with different doors. It has been there for years, and we have come to accept the inadequacies as normal,” Alexis said.

On November 10, People’s National Party Councillor Kari Douglas was embroiled in a near-brawl with Dr Judith Francis Bogle because the doctor ruled her eight-month-old son’s illness a non-emergency. The confrontation escalated into an expletive-laden outburst, causing the A&E department to close for two hours.

Alexis’ sentiments were echoed by Carmen Johnson, president of the Nurses Association of Jamaica, who highlighted that in primary-care settings, two nurses would often work from a small room, attending to up to 40 patients each day.

“We have an ailing healthcare sector that has been ailing for years. After you have been sick for a period of time and not been given the right treatment, it simply means that your condition deteriorates, and that is what is happening to the health system,” Johnson said.

DOUBLE DILEMMA

According to Alexis, the set-up is not any better for the doctors and nurses who often have to work double shifts.

“The doctors’ room – the overnight room with a cot – serves as the lunchroom, meeting room, every room! It’s a small room ... there is no nurses’ room or lounge, there is no doctors’ lounge in the hospital. We have to do better and we have to start dealing with the reform of our sector,” Alexis lamented.

Alexis said that from as far back as his presidency of the JMDA, stretching back a decade, he called for the establishment of a body to reform the health sector. He said that the overhaul team could mirror the Economic Programme Oversight Committee, an oversight group lauded for its monitoring of Jamaica’s arrangements with the International Monetary Fund, and would provide a road map to address the decades-long issues that plague the sector.

Attempts to contact Dr Michelle-Ann Richards Dawson, senior medical officer of Bustamante, were unsuccessful as several calls to her mobile phone went unanswered.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com