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Medic told she'd be better off being a prostitute

Published:Monday | July 17, 2017 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin

Already working under adverse conditions with limited resources, staff at the downtown-based Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) are now facing an additional problem as some patients and visitors hurl threats and abuse at them.

"We are told everything under the sun. Any expletive you can think of, we have heard it. I heard a patient tell a female medical personnel that she is better off being a prostitute because she's not doing anything.

"The emergency room is a strange place, where it can go from complete chaos to looking completely quiet. So if they come at a moment when we have finally cleared off all the trauma cases and it looks quiet, they will assume that we are not doing anything," Dr Renee Armstrong, medical officer at the Accident and Emergency (A&E) unit at KPH, told a Gleaner Editors' Forum last Thursday.

"We get threatened so frequently. We get verbally abused so frequently," she said. Describing the rush of emotions they experience, Armstrong said that there were moments when the medical staff were concerned or felt hurt because of the abuse, "but two seconds later, you have somebody coming in that you need to treat or somebody else who is coming with the same kind of threat and comment.

"You are not really offered the time to process a severely traumatic case. You are not offered the time to process a threat or some expletives that were thrown at you because you are so busy." But Armstrong said, "You can't afford to let what happened with the patient before cloud your judgement with this patient, so you basically have to wipe the slate in your mind clean and work on the next one and the next, and the next (patient)."

... Abused even after saving a life

Melanie Guelph, registered nurse at the Accident and Emergency (A&E) unit, had a similar story as she described working at the KPH as a thankless job.

"We get the abuse even after trying to save an individual's life. When they recover, they say things like, 'Where is my $300 weh unu tek outa mi pocket?', and go as far as to say, 'It better unu did mek mi dead.' That is the thanks we get," said Guelph.

"One [patient] came one day with a machete wound in his chest and the surgeon had to hold his heart and rush him to the theatre and the doctors up there patch him up. And he came back three weeks later to ask for the $300," said Guelph.