Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
Despite the overpowering smell of freshly applied disinfectant in the bathrooms on the wards at the Bellevue Hospital in Kingston yesterday, during a more than three-hour-long tour, the rancid scent of urine still flexed its muscles.
The floors of a few of the wards were dripping wet, apparently scrubbed shortly before the visit to facilitate the parade headed by Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson, officials from the health ministry, members of the hospital's board, and media personnel.
The scent emanating from the red floor polish was also overpowering and suggested that it, too, was applied just before the tour.
David Dobson, CEO of Bellevue Hospital, admitted that work on the facility started after a Sunday Gleaner investigation, but insisted it was in the pipeline prior to the exposé.
In the kitchen, a staff member was seen using a shovel to stir and share the rice that is fed to patients.
Mancieta Rhoden, the hospital's dietitian, said the shovel was sterile and dedicated solely to the rice pot. Rhoden suggested that the shovel was being used because there was no utensil big enough for the large pot used to prepare the meals. She explained that if such a utensil existed, she did not know of it, and one would have to be custom made.
Poor conditions exposed
The tour, requested by Ferguson, was spawned by the Sunday Gleaner exclusive that last weekend highlighted poor patient-care practices and the fact that the hospital again failed a public-health inspection.
The minister wanted to see first-hand the problems affecting the facility.
Bellevue has approximately 800 patients in its care, but only 15 doctors and some 150 nurses. Only two nurses were seen on a female ward that housed 20 patients.
"There has to be some reform," Ferguson said before reiterating his planned audit of the hospital, which the minister said would form the basis of the restructuring process that is in the pipeline.
Despite admitting that real problems confronted the island's only psychiatric hospital, Ferguson was unable to say when the audit would get off the ground.
"I am giving instructions. I don't want to pin myself in any corner with a date. I think the conditions and the report in the paper create some urgency about it," said Ferguson after being pressed for timeline.
The minister added that he planned to have a post-briefing with his technocrats after the tour to determine the parameters and the mandate of the audit.