Tue | Jan 17, 2017

Patients ignore clinics, flood hospitals

Published:Saturday | October 11, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

APART FROM inordinately long waiting periods that cause the patience of patients to wear thin, treating persons with minor ailments at public hospital is draining the already empty purse of the public health system.

Dr Shane Alexis, president of the Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ) told a Gleaner editors' forum that it costs more than twice the amount of money to treat persons with minor illnesses at public hospitals instead of community health centres or clinics.

Alexis said that apart from the obvious squandering of scarce and much-needed resources to administer patients with minor ailments, a shortage of professionals is causing the facilities to be bursting at the seam.

Senior personnel at the MAJ have charged that many persons who should be seen at clinics are stubbornly finding their way into already cramped and overworked public hospitals, and in so doing preventing patients who are seriously ill from being treated in a timely manner.

Alexis said the cadre of doctors to attend to
the triaging processes that prioritise patients into more- and
less-urgent categories are stretched to the limit at accident and
emergency facilities.

He stressed that public
education has become necessary to encourage persons suffering from minor
ailments to attend clinics in their communities instead of rushing to
public hospitals.

Alexis pointed out that in case
individuals are found to be in need of more medical attention, he/she
would be referred to the hospital.

When the question
was raised about people avoiding health centres because they are
believed to be manned by inexperienced doctors, Alexis cited the need to
prevent a brain drain on the system.

"To ensure
longevity, you need doctors who have been in the sector and senior ones
to manage complex situations and recognise where resources have to be
directed," he said. "We have to ensure that we are able to keep persons
so that we have real development of the sector.

"If
you have casualty departments where you have less experienced
practitioners, it's going to be slower and harder," he
warned.

Vice-president of the MAJ Professor Marvin
Reid agreed, saying it is the ratio of doctors to patients that burdens
the public health-care system.

"Its sheer numbers;
it's a simple numbers issue," he said. "Typically, if you are
approaching a hospital, what you will find is a mixture of simple cases
and more complex cases," he added.

Reid said hospitals
are designed to deal with complex cases. "Most of them have a triage
system," he said. "Even to go through the triaging procedure takes
time."