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Women face almost daily abuse at the forefront of patient care at the Kingston Public Hospital

Published:Sunday | March 8, 2015 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
In this 2014 photo nurses protest outside the Kingston Public Hospital after one of their colleagues was attacked by a mentally ill patient at the insitution.

The Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) is home to some of the island's finest medical professionals, with the mostly female nurses as good as those anywhere else in the world -if not better.

But many of the more than 100,000 persons who visit the hospital each year for medical care do not see the nurses as the professionals they are, and the tales of disrespect are many.

"Dutty gyal nurse! You know how long man a wait and caan get no attention?"

"Big #%& gyal! Oonu think man have all day fi wait?"

"A because de doctor dem mek unnu nuh want come treat people."

"Dem dutty gyal nurse yah tink dem betta than wi."

"Wait till mi ketch you outside and si wah guh happen to you!"

These are just some of the abusive words hurled at nurses at the KPH on an almost daily basis.

Last week, a nurse who has worked at the KPH for more than 10 years shared her story with The Sunday Gleaner.

The nurse, Janet*, depends on public transportation to get to and from the facility in the heart of one of the most violent sections of the Corporate Area.

To get to the KPH for her 7 a.m. shift, she leaves home at 5:30 a.m. to catch the first of two buses that will take her downtown. Some of the patients she will see later at the hospital travel on the same buses with her.

The latest she can sign in to begin her shift is 7 a.m., but an earlier sign in is recommended.

"If you are a nurse at accident and emergency, it is recommended because you will have more time to get better details on the patients already being treated," said Janet.

 

FEAR OF MONDAY

 

She noted that nurses really feared Mondays. "Most people, over the years, will wait until Monday to see the doctor even if they fall ill on the weekend."

Public holidays are dreaded, too.

"Public holidays bring traffic accident emergencies, heavily intoxicated and psychotic patients, gunshot victims, as well as other emergencies to KPH," said Janet as she noted that gunshot victims were almost daily.

"The worst part of being a medical official - except doctors - is the abuse you take. We are human beings and some of us are married. We are peoples' children; we have families; we are respectable persons in society, and to hear some of the abuse we endure, sometimes it makes treating the patients very difficult," said Janet.

"Sometimes we go to the bathroom and cry, wash our faces and come back to the treating of the very same people who abused us."

Janet argued that nurses, like all other responsible professionals, make personal sacrifices to tend to an often ungrateful public.

"Nurses often leave their sick children in the care of grandmothers and in-laws to be on duty. Sometimes they miss important school meetings; sometimes they have to be on the phone with doctors at other medical facilities where they have sick relatives while they face abuse at work."

Janet charged that the abuse of the mostly female nursing staff is because of the waning respect for women in the society. She said while disrespect has become par for the course for nurses, most patients think twice before disrespecting doctors.

"They would never tell the doctors the things they tell us," she said, admitting that some nurses found it difficult to extend kindness after constant abuse.

"If you are a female doctor and you introduce yourself to the patient as Dr So and So, the patient's response is usually, 'Yes, nurse', and the female doctors often quarrel about it. While if you are a male nurse and you talk to the patients, they say 'Yes, doctor'. The nurses find it funny; the doctors not so," said Janet.

Despite the abuse and other negatives, Janet said she would never want to leave the KPH.

"I love KPH no matter what. Anybody says anything bad about it, I am defending it. It is a place where you can grow professionally, and it has some of the finest doctors and nurses. When you have worked at KPH, you can work anywhere in the world," declared Janet with pride.

*Name changed on request.

See related International Women's Day articles on Page D9.