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Linda Sutherland-Hines - A life dedicated to providing extraordinary care

Published:Saturday | February 21, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Former director of nursing services at Port Maria Hospital in St Mary, Matron Linda Sutherland-Hines.

After almost four decades as a frontline health-care professional at the Port Maria Hospital (PMH) in St Mary, two months ago, Matron Linda Sutherland-Hines took pre-retirement leave to spend more time looking after her family and herself.

During the course of her illustrious career, the former director of nursing services at PMH gained a master's degree in public health from the University of the West Indies, and a wealth of experience working and training at institutions in Kingston and St Ann.

Moreover, after working in the parish of her birth for 37 years, Sutherland-Hines has developed a matchless comprehension of St Mary's health-care system and insists that although many elements are required to ensure the machine runs smoothly, good customer service is the most important.

She told Rural Xpress: "The most important thing I've learned is that patients, regardless of who they are, come to a facility for the extraordinary. The ordinary is at home; people give them a cup of tea, a bath, and speak kindly to them.

"However, because of the training a health-care professional has, patients come to them expecting the extraordinary, and that is a lot to learn."


Allocating resources


The popular nurse believes, for the most part, that St Mary has a competent and dedicated team of practitioners delivering a credible service across two hospitals and 28 clinics and health centres.

However, she acknowledges there are problems, particularly in relation to the allocation of supplies. Sutherland-Hines explains: "Of course, we could do with more material resources, but it's not a situation where the parish doesn't have things.

"You don't really hear of high death rates or epidemics in St Mary, which means something is right, but there is a problem with how we dispatch and share resources.

"I really think there needs to be better assessment and some refocusing to help ensure resources are dispatched in a way that can better help the people. We need an improved inventory system that gives us greater understanding of what we have and which areas in the parish most need resources."

Additionally, Sutherland-Hines believes more should be done to encourage the public to utilise local health centres and clinics more effectively.

She said: "Over the years, although they have been taught to use their primary health-care service and most people live close to a facility, they feel the hospital should be the first port of call, so they continue to go there.

"The culture is: the doctors in the hospital are brighter than those in the health centre, so if I go to the hospital, I will see a smarter person and receive better care. But there is no truth to that because all the doctors come from the same universities.

"I really wish we enhanced the primary care setting and gave them more money, equipment, staff and the most experienced doctors since they give the first diagnosis and referral. If that were to happen, there would be fewer patients walking into accident and emergency departments with a cough and a cold.

As Sutherland-Hines prepares to retire officially, she appears confident the parish's health service will flourish in the future: "The recent opening of the operating theatre at PMH was encouraging and the staff in St Mary are very committed, and that's important because it's people's dreams that will help to move things forward."