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Poor customer service at Bustamante Hospital

Published:Saturday | April 21, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Prince Harry has a chat with a young patient at the Bustamante Hospital for Children in St Andrew on March 6. A customer has complained about poor service at Bustamante on April 17.- File
Eighty-four-year-old Vincent Reid (left) receives a gift from Judith Maitland, senior probation officer for the Corporate Area, during the Department of Correctional Services' Corporate Area probation office Christmas treat at the Marie Atkins Night Shelter on Hanover Street, downtown Kingston, in 2010. Letter writer Byron Yates has proposed new roles for probation officers.- Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer.


My recent trip to the Bustamante Hospital for Children has led me to write this letter because of the level of disrespect, poor customer service and scant regard for parents/guardians seeking medical assistance for their children.

It is very sad to hear stories and witness gross disrespect being meted out to parents on their trip to the largest children's hospital in the English-speaking Caribbean. It is also very embarrassing to see how some of the medical practitioners dealt with them. They should not be working in such a noble institution. It's a sad indictment on the Jamaican health-care system.

On Monday, April 17, 2012, I visited the hospital seeking medical assistance for my son who had been having a fever for more than two days as well as an infection. Upon my arrival, I did not know exactly what to do, so I went to the window with the sign that says 'Registration' to get some assistance, only to be told by the clerk that I need to go by the front desk with the sign that states 'Temperature/Weight. When I went there I was told by a nurse that I should "sit over there and wait".

Afterwards, I went with my son to the front desk for weight and temperature check. While there, I observed that the nurse's assistant was more caring and helpful than the registered nurse (RN). She spoke softly and acknowledged the persons around her while the RN was coarse and easily frustrated.

I waited on a second bench, then was called in batches with other mothers to see the doctor for an assessment. Upon my return, I produced a slip from the doctor at the registration desk and was told by the clerk to sit on the fourth bench and wait for my name to be called to see the doctor. At that time, it was 10:30 a.m.

I was there waiting for my name to be called until my son got very miserable and tired, so he fell asleep. When my name was called, it was about 4:45 p.m. and I saw the doctor about 5:15 p.m. When I went in to see the doctor, I saw a nurse, another person and a child lying on a bed, but the room was not private.

The doctor asked about my son's medical condition based on the file he had. I responded and added that my son had a cold and a runny nose. I began to tell him about the medications I got for him when he visited a private doctor last Thursday, but his responses really shocked me. He asked why I was telling him that and what that has to do with him?

I got very upset, but responded professionally by saying, "I thought, as a doctor, you would want to be informed about the medication the child is taking so that you would not prescribe something that might have any side effects." I sat there and was blown out of my mind, thinking about the type of medical practitioners rendering assistance to the young and vulnerable.

Some of them have no love, very rude and disrespectful. What makes matters worse is that at the end of the diagnosis, he was asking me about the medication the child was taking. I told him, got the prescription and left.

From my observation, you can see that that doctor treats everybody the same way across the board. I do not expect preferential treatment over other parents/guardians but everyone should be treated with respect.

I believe medical personnel should be trained with the basic customer-service skills. We need a paradigm shift.

Invest in more probation officers

BYRON YATES, Home town

Social stability is one of the key drivers of economic growth in a country in that it gives investors confidence and is even more attractive if bureaucracies are in line with those of First-World countries.

Hence, it is safe to posit that the impact of crime on a society is immeasurable and, by extension, colossal. It is with this in mind that I formed the view that any programme that can add value to the stability of a nation is of great economic importance and propose that the following be examined.

I am aware that there are probation officers in every parish in the island. However, additional probation officers should be employed at central points in inner-city areas in the Corporate Area; St Catherine, in particular Spanish Town; Clarendon; and St James where the crime rates are highest.

Probation officers should coordinate with the Child Development Agency and the police in order to identify children at risk in these communities and address problems.

Probation officers should also partner with the school resource officers and guidance counsellors with respect to children in schools who have behavioural problems. They should do follow-up counselling and keep records that will assist the probation office that services the court if such child becomes an offender.

Also, probation officers must be permanent features in communities by proactively speaking to parents and guardians, selectively and randomly, working together with the Victim Support Unit to give sustained succour and support to families who are victims of serious crimes. These officers would be the first responders to antisocial behaviour of youths in these communities.

A unit known as the Coordinated Social Intervention Task Force, with persons from the various groups, should be formed. They would work together to help bring social stability to the various communities and the country at large.

I am confident that if a cost-benefit analysis is done, it would show that the benefits outweigh the cost.

Clarifying 'Contemptuous treatment of cancer patients at UHWI'

We write in response to a People's Report article published in The Gleaner dated March 24, 2012 titled 'Contemptuous treatment of cancer patients at UHWI'.

The following information hopefully will clarify some misunderstandings expressed in the letter.

We empathise with the long wait times in the clinic and strive to give timely care to our many patients, but we also must continue to try not to limit the numbers that we see, so that needed treatments can be started without undue delays.

Our clinic area is shared space. There is no dedicated oncology clinic space in the hospital, and as such we have to use the designated area when it is available to us. This allows us a single day per week to have our clinic. We see patients from all over Jamaica, including May Pen, Mandeville, St Ann's Bay and, indeed, the Kingston Public Hospital, which apart from the Cornwall Regional Hospital has the only other oncology clinic in Jamaica.

On the day in question, we had 85 patients to see, and 22 of these patients required treatment in the chemotherapy unit. Patients requiring intravenous chemo-therapy or transfusion are seen first so that this treatment can be started early to allow time for the many hours it takes to complete these treatments.

Our patients are assigned to specific doctors and enjoy the familiarity and comfort of seeing the same doctors at each visit. This allows us to know their needs, problems and deal with them efficiently. Given the nature of their illnesses, we cannot predict how long each consultation will last. Doctors who are assigned to the ward for the month have to do rounds daily to care for the inpatients. That load is unpredictable, and the problems that those patients have vary from day to day.

Any patient who may be feeling unwell as they wait to see the doctor normally advises the nurse or doctors in the clinic, and that patient is assessed and managed as necessary once we are aware of the need for more urgent review.

In addition, we have doctors-in-training who need to discuss the patients that they see with their seniors to ensure the safe management of all patients. All of this takes time.

These patients have serious illnesses. It affects the physicians as well, and amicable relations between medical staff promote efficiency without adversely affecting patient care.

We have one telephone line in the clinic, which is used for contacting laboratories, arranging studies and having discussions with colleagues on matters of patient care. So our use of the telephone, including our personal cellphones, is in the normal conduct of our duties.

The clinic recently has undergone significant improvement in its facilities. As we all know, all these amenities come at a cost, and while we strive to improve facilities for patients, we will continue to have limitations due to affordability.

We hope, therefore, you can understand the constraints under which we operate and which contribute to these delays even as we strive to do better. All concerns, complaints, suggestions to improve care are welcome, but as we are not part of the South East Regional Health Authority would best be addressed either to the doctors in the clinic or the hospital CEO.

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