Editorial

Make health questionnaire compulsory

Sunday, August 24, 2014    

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ARISING from the situation involving expectant mothers who had sought medical care in delivering their children at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital, the Ministry of Health has little alternative but to introduce measures that will see less complaints and ultimately better customer care for the women of this country.

Much has been said and written about alleged occurrences at Jamaica's, and indeed the English-speaking Caribbean's, only all-maternity institution. We are told by the Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson of an ongoing probe into claims of misconduct by staff when dealing with patients, which, it is hoped, will determine whether or not the claims are true, and if they are, what measures will be introduced to bring those guilty to justice, and chart a course for a better way forward for the women who are forced to use the facility, some of them due to their economic circumstances.

Regardless of what the probe uncovers - and already we hear the sceptics saying that even if things untoward are brought to the surface there will be a cover-up - the ministry of health needs to tighten the screws.

The allegations made against health workers at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital are quite serious, but even more alarming is the revelation that irregular conduct by health workers is widespread - that most of the public hospitals have been fingered by patients who claim that they have been disrespected at one point or the other.

That situation has led us to believe that in order for there to be some amount of transparency, and even a semblance of fairness, a national questionnaire should be introduced at public institutions, starting with a pilot project at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital, to allow for patients to relate, in their estimation, the manner in which they were treated by health workers.

We put forward the Victoria Jubilee as the suggested starting point because of the several complaints that have been filed by women who have gone there to bear their pain, only to be inflicted, they say, by unplanned mental and even physical pain before, during, and after delivery.

We are certain that if patients are allowed the opportunity to state how they were treated, overall patient care would improve, for any worker who respects his job would be stupid to flout the laws of the institution, knowing that the offended parties have an outlet to express themselves.

We have not heard many stories of health workers being handled badly, or even attacked by patients, although we are aware of some. But we also urge workers who have been made uncomfortable by patients or their relatives to act decisively if they feel that their lives are under threat. That decisive action should include summoning the police.

Word has come to us that the Ministry of Health has provisions for complaints to be filed by patients, if they believe that they have been unfairly handled at public medical institutions. While that may be so, we maintain that instead of a patient asking about the options of complaints that are avaliable, that patient must be presented with a form which should be completed upon his or her discharge from hospital. Only then would we have begun the journey up the rocky and steep hill to reach closer to solving outstanding medical issues that could damage our credibility as a caring nation of professional health-care providers.

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