Fri | Sep 17, 2021

Over $13m spent on one social patient at Falmouth hospital

Man abandoned by his family since 2009

Published:Monday | July 26, 2021 | 12:05 AMLeon Jackson/Gleaner Writer


It has been all of 12 years since 49-year-old Dennis Green was abandoned by his family at the Falmouth Hospital in Trelawny, and based on the hospital’s calculation, the price tag to the Government for feeding and accommodating him has been $13 million so far.

According to the hospital’s chief executive officer, Prudence Wedderburn, it cost the hospital approximately $3,000 daily to care for each patient and while Green is not sick, he is enjoying the same benefits as genuinely ill patients.

“It cost us $3,000 to keep social patients like Green at the hospital, and over time, the money adds up,” said Wedderburn, whose calculation put Geen’s cost on the system at over $13 million.

Green was admitted to the Falmouth hospital in 2009 after he fell from a breadfruit tree and ended up being crippled from his waist down. Upon being told that he would require a surgical procedure costing $250,000, his family simply abandoned him, leaving him at the mercy of the state.

St Andrade Sinclair, who heads the Western Regional Health Authority, believes the $13 million tab placed on the care Green has been getting, might be on the low side as some of the services he has been receiving have not been factored in.

“It is a strain on the Government’s coffers. This is just for 365 days per year,” said Sinclair. “Not included is the cost of staff to deal with social patients. There are doctors, nurses, and janitorial staff, who have to clean up after they have messed up the place.”

Sinclair said the cost to care for the social patients is a great strain on the hospital and he would like to see their families located and persuaded to take them in.

“All involved at the administration level have to appeal to relatives who drop off their loved ones and leave them. They occupy space needed by genuinely sick people who need internal medical care,” said Sinclair, in expressing his own frustration with the situation.

According to matron, Pauline Dawkins Palmer, there are currently eight social patients at the hospital, but the number fluctuates at times as some persons would leave and then come back.

In a recent public statement on the matter, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said social patients cannot be just thrown out on the street, hence the need to locate their families so that they can be released into their care.

“By policy and legislation, social patients are not to be put out on the street,” said Tufton, explaining the restraint faced by the Government.

There was a suggestion that social patients be removed from the Falmouth hospital to the Falmouth infirmary, but that idea was shot down because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and lack of space at the infirmary.