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Hospital care crisis - Trauma patients suffering amid shortage of ICU beds, equipment

Published:Monday | June 13, 2016 | 12:00 AMAndre Poyser

Consultant Neurosurgeon at the Cornwall Regional Hospital, Professor Renn Holness, is raising alarm about the poor state of the intensive care unit (ICU), which has limited its ability to provide aid to trauma patients and those in need of neurosurgical operations.

"Right now, at this very moment in Montego Bay, we are supposed to have an ICU, but the ICU is closed because of infection and mould," Holness told The Gleaner.

He disclosed that a total of three recovery beds, which are now all occupied by trauma patients, currently serve as an ICU of sorts for western Jamaica.

"We are stuck when we don't have the staff and equipment and we are overwhelmed with the trauma and with the gunshot wounds and accidents occurring now. Right now, Montego Bay is paralysed. I have people with brain tumours, several cerebral aneurysms, [and] spinal cord compression waiting for surgery because we can't get them in an operating room."

According to Holness, there is currently a shortage of ICU beds in Jamaica and a lack of quality post-operative care.

"We don't have the quality of post-operative care that is required to run a first-class neurosurgery service ... so every case is a new crisis. Right now, there is a patient in Savanna-la-Mar with a severe head injury, incubated and can't move because there are no ICU beds in the country to accept those patients," he said.

Holness, who returned to Jamaica after a long stint in Canada to pioneer neurosurgical services at the Cornwall Regional Hospital, noted that while the number of neurosurgeons has increased, the facilities required to effectively deliver care have not improved.

"The level of neurosurgical practice has improved, but what has not kept pace with it is the support services, so, for instance, what we need for many of our post-operative patients is an intermediate care unit where a very sick patient, who is not necessarily on a ventilator, has access to high-quality nursing supervision because the operation is only part of the equation," he said.

"You can do a fantastic operation and lose the patient because of poor post-operative care, so we don't have intensive care or ward care, and we don't have enough intensive care beds," he explained.

Holness told The Gleaner that the lack of proper ICU and neurosurgical facilities also extends to Kingston Public Hospital (KPH).

However, The Gleaner was unsuccessful in reaching Dr Dwight Webster, consultant neurosurgeon at KPH.

"The way we cope with it is the patient stays there and dies or fights to survive, and when there is a bed, we transfer them," Holness said.