Sat | Jun 19, 2021

Have a heart

Tufton urges compassion training as more hospital horror stories emerge

Published:Wednesday | June 9, 2021 | 12:13 AMJonielle Daley/Staff Reporter - -
Minister of Health and Wellnes Dr Christopher Tufton.
Minister of Health and Wellnes Dr Christopher Tufton.

Days after a probe was launched into allegations of mistreatment and neglect by medical staff at the Spanish Town Hospital, Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton has ordered regional health authorities to spearhead training in compassionate care...

Days after a probe was launched into allegations of mistreatment and neglect by medical staff at the Spanish Town Hospital, Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton has ordered regional health authorities to spearhead training in compassionate care amid a torrent of complaints.

While expressing confidence in the public health system could provide medical care amid stress and inadequate resources in the midst of a pandemic, Tufton said he was concerned about the quality of treatment for patients.

“Admittedly, this new set of negative cases are worrying and, in my mind, requires a review of the process and possibly a reminder training sessions for our hospital’s staff,” he told The Gleaner on Tuesday.

“I have been long concerned that we need to work more on administering clinical services with a greater sense of empathy and compassion,” he added.

His views were corroborated by obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Michael Abrahams, who called for greater emphasis on interpersonal and customer-service skills.

While emphasising that he did not condone negligence, Abrahams said, however, that sometimes healthcare workers were “given basket to carry water”.

“Sometimes there is not really much that you can do. Sometimes they are overworked and there is no way you can function normally when you are put under stress,” he told The Gleaner.

The latest distress call has come from Shanique Armstrong, a 26-year-old woman who gave birth on the floor of the Accident and Emergency Department of the Spanish Town Hospital in St Catherine while nurses allegedly ignored her cries for assistance.

Her claims are a bruising blow to the Ministry of Health & Wellness’s Compassionate Care Programme, launched in 2018 to train medical personnel in improved customer experience. More than 3,000 hospital workers have been trained in customer service.

But allegations of mistreatment at public-health maternity wards continue to dog the authorities.

Natasha Williams, who lost her baby in March, three weeks and five days after giving birth at Spanish Town Hospital in St Catherine, is pleading for a systemic overhaul to improve the care offered to mothers.

“I think that the nurses, they need to re-evaluate them. They need to ... show more empathy towards mothers,” said the 24-year-old.

After dreadful account of doctors not following guidance from Spanish Town Hospital’s high-risk clinic, she returned days later to deal with what she claimed was poor communication and a lack of urgency.

She believes they were reluctant in getting the newborn’s CT scan done after concluding that there was liquid around his brain.

Spanish Town CEO Dwayne Francis was not available for comment on Tuesday.

Andrea Williams, too, reportedly had a horror story, telling The Gleaner yesterday that she had to “bend over and pull the baby from my stomach”.

Williams was rushed to the Victoria Jubilee Hospital in Kingston in December 2015 because of blood in her urine that was later accompanied by labour pains.

“I was referred to one of the two doctors who were on duty for an ultrasound. The baby was dead inside me. I sat in grief and labour pain for one and a half hours before I got a bed at 2:30 p.m.,” she said.

The injection recommended by the doctor for the pain was not administered because of a shift change, she said.

“I felt the baby coming and I cried for help. The only nurse I saw passing told me, ‘It not ready yet’. She did not stop to look at my condition. I delivered the child by myself. I did not see a nurse until I saw my dead baby and I screamed out,” Andrea Williams told The Gleaner.

She said she was further traumatised because she witnessed a woman give birth in a bathroom.

“The nurse come and seh, ‘She fool, eeh, she nuh see say she still have on her panty’,” the woman said.

President of the Nurses Association of Jamaica, Patsy Edwards-Henry, who is also a trained midwife, explained that while generalists are trained to attend to a wide range of cases, midwifery is an area of specialisation.

“The generalist, the scope of her training does not allow her to do a delivery,” she told The Gleaner on Tuesday.

“It does not mean that a generalist cannot do anything at all to a patient who may be in labour,” she added.

Edwards-Henry said Jamaica’s public healthcare system is about 50 per cent short of the optimal number of nurses, a vacuum that applies to midwifery as well.

jonielle.daley@gleanerjm.com