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Accidents crippling Savanna-la-Mar hospital - Motorcyclists driving up emergency cases

Published:Wednesday | February 8, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Thomas
Policemen on the scene of a motor vehicle accident involving a motorcycle and a motor car. The driver of the motorcycle and the pillion were hospitalised with serious injuries, while the driver of the car was treated and released.


The Westmoreland-based Savanna-la-Mar Public General Hospital is being overwhelmed by the large number of persons showing up at its accident and emergency Department, and most are victims of incidents involving motorcycles.

"For the year 2016, 1,323 people came into the accident and emergency department. That is an average of a little over 110 cases per month. Imagine the stress that puts on the hospital," said Eric Clarke, chairman of the board of the hospital, during a media briefing last week.

"These are not patients that come in with a medical ailment that may only take three or four days' admittance. Most of these are in the hospital for 20-plus days.

"That is taking up very important hospital bed space, so if all 110 cases needed a bed, most of the hospital would just be looking after motorcycle-accident patients," added Clarke as he urged the police to administer stricter penalties for motorists who flout the law, especially those who ride without helmets.

"I want to seek the assistance of the Westmoreland police, the Traffic Division, to try and see what enforcement they can have in enforcing helmets for motorcycle riders," said Clarke.

"When you have a medical ailment, we can fix it, patch you up, and give you medicine. Unfortunately, when you fall off a motorcycle and hit your head, parts for the brain are not something we stock at the hospital, and it is a very serious injury."

In the meantime, Dr Alfred Dawes, senior medical officer at the hospital, noted that motorcycle accidents do not only impact the hospital, but also the patients' families and the wider Westmoreland.

"There are many social issues surrounding these trauma victims; they move from being breadwinners to being dependent on their families. So it goes beyond even the hospital, it affects the community of Westmoreland, and it is a burden on those families, on society and taxpayers," said Dawes.

"Modern medicine still cannot heal the brain the way sci-fi movies make it out to be, and so I am appealing to persons to not just think you are young and invincible, but wear your helmets and obey the rules of the road," added Dawes.

For Dwayne Vaz, the member of parliament for Central Westmoreland, the Road Traffic Act needs to be updated and more strictly enforced to reduce instances of motorcyclists breaking the law.

"Some new elements of the Road Traffic Act should hopefully be putting more things in place where we can enforce the law quicker and more effectively, because some of the laws are outdated," said Vaz.

According to Vaz, "When you have a charge for not wearing a helmet that is in the region of a $1,000 fine, it is not a deterrent for persons not wearing that helmet. We have to put more stringent laws in place when it comes to getting people to adhere to these things."