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Privacy: Dead on arrival! Medical files left open, consultations with patients in public mar operations at the St Ann's Bay Hospital

Published:Sunday | October 19, 2014 | 10:00 AM
Nothing to seperate the patients in this makeshift ward in the Accident and Emergency Department at the St Ann's Bay Hospital. - Photo by Ryon Jones
What appeared to be patients' X-ray results left carelessly on a desk in an office at the St Ann's Bay Hospital. - Photo by Ryon Jones
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Ryon Jones, Staff Reporter

The privacy, which persons would expect at a medical facility, is almost non-existent at the St Ann's Bay Hospital, with the most personal medical discussions sometimes taking place within the hearing of others.

A recent visit to the facility by a Sunday Gleaner news team revealed that the lack of privacy begins even before the outpatient department opens each morning. There, persons who arrive at the break of dawn have developed their own informal numbering system, which involves each person announcing, for all to hear, which doctor they are there to see - whether a gynaecologist or otherwise.

Each person will then collect the number he was assigned when the security guards open the door at 6 a.m.

The initial screening of some persons takes place at the information desk in full view of those waiting their turn.

"Mi really no like the set-up. They muss can carry wi go in a little room," said a female who was sitting down on a piece of iron, which had once been the base of a chair.

From the screening room, the patients, who were admitted to the hospital and who were lucky enough to get beds, were placed side-by-side in small quarters without any partitions.

During our news team's visit, a male patient who wanted to urinate in a container by his bedside had nowhere to hide from his four close neighbours, including two women.

.With a number of beds stationed in the corridor, and others without a screen, even the process of cleaning the patients, which started at 4:15 a.m. during the visit by our news team, was, for the most part, a public spectacle.

"I don't know why dem have fi wake up di old people dem so early fi wipe dem up," declared one obviously annoyed lady.

There were other signs of patient privacy being ignored, with a black and white hardcover book marked 'dead on arrival' left on the counter of the nurse's station for almost an entire night, with anyone having access to it.

Unlocked offices with patients' files left carelessly on desks was also a feature during the night our news team stayed at the hospital. It was clear that a security guard on duty near the main door to the offices was not serving any real purpose as unauthorised access to the area was not prevented.

Leon Gordon, chairman of the North East Regional Health Authority, was quick to agree that free access to the files was a no-no.

"One would not expect that to happen, and if it happens, the security should be more alert so that the person who does it would be apprehended and the legal procedure followed," Gordon told The Sunday Gleaner.

"One of the immediate things is to examine the type of breaches that occur and take appropriate actions to prevent any such future occurrence. As best as possible, we will take appropriate steps to improve security at the facility.

"And we will be taking the necessary steps to avoid anybody having access to the offices as easily as you were able to," added Gordon.

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com