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Published:Sunday | November 18, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Uncaring relatives leave dozens of persons, including children, to fend for themselves at public hospitals

Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter

Jamaica's already pressured public hospitals are being forced to keep patients who are no longer in need of hospitalisation.

These persons remain in hospital days, weeks and months after they are discharged because they are abandoned by their relatives.

More than 320 persons have been abandoned at hospitals over the last three years.

Data obtained from three of the country's major public hospitals show that patient abandonment partly explains the often chronic overcrowding situation in some facilities.

The Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) accounts for the lion's share of the cases with 150 persons abandoned there since 2009.

Hospital administrators say the callous neglect shown by some relatives is adversely affecting its ability to admit sick patients in need of care.

Dianne Duke, acting patient affairs manager at the KPH, recalled instances when guns were drawn on hospital employees who attempted to take home abandoned patients.

take them back

According to Duke, at gunpoint the hospital workers were told to turn around and take the patient back to the facility.

"This is done not necessarily by relatives but it happens in the community on multiple occasions," charged Duke.

She explained that while some of what the hospitals call "social cases" are cold-hearted instances of abandonment, some of the patients have outlived their relatives, are childless or have lost contact with their family members. "But, they are usually brought here