Knock! Knock! Send down the elevator
Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
The makeshift solution for the Kingston Public Hospital's (KPH) dysfunctional elevator is an inside job - literally. Enter the 'elevator man'.
Chronic elevator woes that have triggered multiple surgery cancellations at Jamaica's major trauma-care hospital have forced workers to craft a zanily efficient means of operating the lift.
After initially bracing open the doors of the antiquated and overworked elevator, which can only be operated from the inside, any of the hospital's three elevator men spend all day routing it to whichever floor makes a request.
The Gleaner also understands that the men have the added responsibility of ensuring that the weight-sensitive elevator isn't overloaded.
Elevator man late
With shouts of "elevator, fourth floor," or whichever floor it is needed, the elevator man dispatches it to the requested floor. Yesterday, however, activities at the hospital, not for the first time, fell behind as the elevator man reported late for duty.
"This morning (yesterday), the hospital functions were delayed because the elevator man was late," said the source, who asked not to be named.
Yesterday's elevator man - described as an artisan who works at the hospital - was observed sitting on a chair inside the elevator. At the ground floor, a porter knocked on the door of the elevator, which opened shortly after.
Entry was gained and it departed upwards.
It could not be ascertained if all three men are employed to the KPH in other capacities. Last year, in a series of stories, The Sunday Gleaner first reported on the issue and the newspaper was told that the elevator shuts down daily, trapping individuals, including patients prepped for surgeries.
"Almost every day, someone gets trapped in the elevator because it shuts down, including with patients for surgeries, and staff, too. Every day somebody has to be called to fix it. Fixing it so often has to be bleeding the hospital. You fix it today, and two hours later, it breaks down," said the source seven months ago.
The malfunctioning elevator forced the hospital to discontinue elective surgeries and only concentrate on emergencies. It was not immediately clear if elective surgeries have resumed.
The Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ) said then that the malfunctioning elevator at the KPH was one of a number of deficiencies at the hospital which was affecting the delivery of health care.
Yesterday, Dr Shane Alexis, president of the MAJ, told The Gleaner, "I am aware that persons now operate the elevator from inside, and this has been happening for some time." However, he added, "I have no comment on the issue of elective surgeries. They (KPH) will have to respond."
He said, with a malfunctioning elevator, medical personnel have to err on the side of caution where surgeries are concerned.
According to him, "Post-operative care is very important, and doctors will not take a chance if patients are going to be stuck in the elevator. If they take that chance and something happens, the doctors are going to be blamed."
Last year, the South East Regional Health Authority, which manages the hospital, said the elevator would be repaired as part of a modernisation project being implemented at the hospital at a cost of more than $30 million.
The elevator transports patients from the Accident and Emergency Department to the various wards as well as other service areas such as the operating theatres.