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Tufton pushing to cut waiting time for surgeries

Published:Tuesday | May 24, 2016 | 12:01 AMErica Virtue
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton (right), outling some of his plans for the medical fraternity to (from left) past president of the Association of Surgeons in Jamaica, Dr Clive Thomas; Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Medical Services, UWI Trevor McCartney; and president of the Association of Surgeons in Jamaica, Dr Mark Newnham, at the Associations 58th Annual Conference recently.

Amid reports that persons have had to wait for more than 12 months for badly needed surgeries in public hospitals, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton is embarking on an ambitious attempt to reduce the waiting time for patients in need of life saving treatment.  

According to Tufton, the long, and often times worrying wait, must be reduced as in some instances individuals die waiting for surgeries.

He said one measure to reducing the waiting period would be better scheduling of the time for the use of operating theatres.

"I would like to see some elective surgeries scheduled for the night-time as well as daytime. To the best of my knowledge, currently, only emergency surgeries are done at nights. I want to see theatres used for both day and night surgeries," Tufton told The Gleaner.

The Health Minister had used an address to the Association of Surgeons in Jamaica 58th annual clinical conference last week Saturday to highlight the problem as he noted that more than 60,000 surgeries were done in public hospitals in 2015.

But even as he praised the surgeons for advances in medicines which now sees shorter recovery time and less invasive surgeries, Tufton said he had grave concerns about the system.

Better scheduling

"I would like to see better scheduling times for surgeries especially in the way theatres are used by medical professionals for public and private patients," said Tufton.

As part of agreement with government doctors are allowed to conduct surgeries for private patients using public facilities.

While he made it clear that he has no intention of stopping this practise, Tufton said he wants greater equity in the way surgeries are done with equal numbers of private surgeries and the same number for non-paying patients.

Addressing the role of the Government in reducing the long wait for surgeries, Tufton accepted that adequate numbers of medical personnel, including anaesthesiologist and specialists' intensive care nurses will have to be provided.

Personnel exhausted

Tufton accepted that some surgeries may last for upwards of 10 hours leaving medical personnel exhausted after being on their feet the entire time.

"The whole issue is complex and making it worse is that public health care is under funded. The challenges associated with the lack of finances are indeed an issue," said Tufton. In the meantime, president of the Association of Surgeons in Jamaica,Dr Mark Newnham agreed with a plan by Tufton to conduct a full review of the public health sector.

"We need to realise that the delivery of health care is expensive and if we are honest about it, if we put our money into public health care programs such as hypertension, diabetes, chronic health diseases then we will be much better off as a country," argued Newnham.

Andrew Harris also contributed to this story.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com