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Water shortage crippling KPH operations - Plans afoot to increase storage capacity

Published:Sunday | July 28, 2019 | 12:37 AMNadine Wilson-Harris - Staff Reporter
Dr Elon Thompson, president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association.
Dr Elon Thompson, president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association.

A scarcity of water in the Corporate Area has resulted in the cancellation of surgeries at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) and has left some medical practitioners at the Type A health facility irritated.

President of the Jamaica Medical Doctors’ Association Dr Elon Thompson said that while water is trucked to the institution regularly, it is often not done early enough for doctors to begin surgeries on time.

“We can’t wash off any instruments or anything after we use them, so that has delayed surgical operations and, by extension, it gets patients cancelled because we run out of time, and that adds to the waiting list,” he told The Sunday Gleaner.

“You come, you present for your list in the morning, then you hear, ‘there is no water’. You don’t get this information prior to starting the list in the morning before you come; you don’t get it the night before. You are getting it when the patient is there, you are there, the anaesthetist is there, nurses are ready to go, and we are hearing that there is no water.”

KPH is the final referral point for primary, secondary and tertiary public healthcare in Jamaica and is, therefore, heavily trafficked, but Dr Thompson finds that not enough is being done to find a permanent solution to address the perennial water shortage at the hospital, which generally gets worse this time of the year.

“I know that the entire country is having a water issue, but we have to prepare for when we are going to have these issues, because it doesn’t make any sense you know that you are going to have water lock-offs at regular intervals and you have a hospital to run and you are out of water,” he lamented.

“I think we need to stop making excuses for the reasons why we are not getting the water and just sort out the problem, because it is delaying the start time for operations and it is adding to the waiting list.”


Chief executive officer (CEO) at KPH, Colleen Wright, admitted that water lock-offs have been affecting their ability to deliver service.

“We do need water in order to offer healthcare, and when there are challenges with the water, it is going to impact the service that we are offering, and as such, that would be an issue in truth,” she said.

Wright noted that the National Water Commission has always been responsive when contacted to truck water to the facility; however, the hospital’s storage capacity needs to be increased.

The combined storage capacity for both KPH and the Victoria Jubilee Hospital is about 45,000 to 50,000 gallons of water; however, the CEO said the facility needs about 100,000 gallons daily to provide full service.

She said they are currently putting a plan in place to increase the storage capacity.

“We want to get that implemented before the end of the year. It is going to take some work to get it implemented, but we are looking to get it done, so that, all being well, when we are experiencing this kind of a season next year, we would be able to bear it,” she said.

Wright was not able to say whether the water shortage has increased the waiting time for persons requiring surgery.

“I know that persons speak to the long waiting list, but that is being investigated. We have been trying to put some things in place so that we can determine what the list is like,” shared the CEO.