Fri | Jul 23, 2021

Better staff-patient dialogue needed at hospitals – Fitz-Henley

Talks key to reducing wait times, tension

Published:Thursday | June 10, 2021 | 12:15 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer


Dr Mindi Fitz-Henley, the president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors’ Association, believes that better communication strategies and compassionate information delivery are needed to help address the vexing issue of long wait times at public-health facilities.

“I think the only way to help patients through this difficult period is with communication, explaining the process to persons and keeping them informed about what is happening and about the projected wait time. In dealing with uncooperative patients, it begins with how you approach the patient,” Fitz-Henley told The Gleaner on Tuesday afternoon.

“I do not defend anyone being rude to patients. I know that when you are short-staffed, it may be more difficult, but being courteous and open with patients is important because most persons are afraid when they come to the hospital,” Fitz-Henley added. “It is important to remember that some patients may not remember what they have been told or they may be too upset to want to hear what they are being told. It all goes back to communication and provision of information.”

Fitz-Henley’s recommendation falls in line with Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton’s directive to the regional health authorities to spearhead training in compassionate care, following a torrent of patient complaints about mistreatment at hospitals.

Fitz-Henley noted that patients also need to understand that their cases will be dealt with based on triaging, a process by which they are seen based on the severity of their conditions.

“Many persons still think it should be ‘first-come, first-serve’, and many persons are also coming to the hospitals with minor things that should be treated at the health centre, and that also backs up the system. Doctors have been locked into rooms, backed into walls, screamed at, hit, and been followed by patients, and when these things happen repeatedly, you can see how they could be afraid to interface with certain types of patients,” said Fitz-Henley.

Over the years, criticisms of Jamaica’s healthcare system have included lengthy waiting periods for patients to receive treatment, with reports of some patients having to sit on hard chairs for upwards of eight hours and others dying while waiting to be seen.

Unprofessional attitude among medical staff has also been cited as a blight on the healthcare system, bringing into question the effectiveness of a compassionate-care programme launched in 2018 to train medical personnel in improved customer experience.

The latest public allegation of unprofessional behaviour in the public-health system has arisen from the case of 26-year-old Shanique Armstrong, who claimed that nurses at the Spanish Town Hospital ignored her pleas for help as she gave birth in the Accident and Emergency Department, following which her baby died.