'If you have bed, get one truck and carry it down yah'

Overcrowding at St Ann's Bay Hospital frustrates staff, patients.

BY RENAE DIXON Observer staff reporter dixonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, November 26, 2012

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JACQUELINE James passed the night of November 14 on a chair in the Accident and Emergency Department of the St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital in St Ann. The woman, who was suffering from abdominal pains, had visited the facility to receive treatment when she was admitted.

However, with a shortage of beds, James and several other patients were forced to make do with the chairs in the department.

Not used to to being confined to such tight spaces during sleep time, James fell from the chair as she dosed off into dreamland. Added to her discomfort was the treatment by some hospital staff.

"Nurse, (and) doctor frustrated because a too much a wi," James told the Jamaica Observer North East last week Thursday, noting that the situation had also irritated hospital staff.

James and several other patients were quite outspoken about the discomforts when Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson visited the hospital two Thursdays ago. Some showed him their swollen feet, others complained that they badly needed a shower. There were also loud complaints concerning the long wait to get medication from the hospital's dispensary.

However, more than a week after the exchange, nothing has changed.

The hospital has seen an increase in its patient load since last month, partly due to an outbreak of the mosquito-carrying dengue fever. And, even with an extension of the opening hours at health centres across the parish, hundreds of patients continue to crowd the hospital with outpatients spilling over into seats under a tent set up on the outside.

The mother of a 14-year-old sick girl, who had grown quite impatient because of the conditions at the hospital, was given an option to take her child home, but not before signing a form indicating that she "refused" medical care for the girl.

Meanwhile, another visitor, Sheryl Clarke told the Observer North East that her 72-year-old mother — who was admitted for treatment — spent her time at the facility sitting in a chair up until the time of her discharge on November 14. She said her mother was readmitted on November 15, but the situation remained unchanged: No beds.

Clarke said some hospital staff were quite frank with persons who were complaining about the lack of beds. According to her, one nurse's response was 'If you have a bed, get one truck and carry it down yah."

Clarke, in giving the health minister advice on how to solve the problem, said he should begin by relocating patients who had been abandoned at the hospital to create space.

"They are taking up space here," she declared.

Ferguson, in the meantime, said the construction of a new female ward should help ease the overcrowding at the hospital. He said the project, which will take six months to be completed, will cost taxpayers $73.4 million. However, he gave no timeline as to when construction would begin.

He also reiterated plans for the construction of two additional operating theatres as well as to upgrade the facility's air-conditioning units.

"I will give it my best shot to ensure that we meet those objectives on a timely basis," Dr Ferguson stated at a press conference following his tour of the facility last Thursday.

The health minister was also apologetic to both staff and patients about the situation at the hospital.

"This is unacceptable, and on my watch I have no intention of covering it up. It is a reality that the people are facing daily and I intend to do something about it," he declared, but indicated that the patients will likely face further discomforts before the situation improves.





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