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Tardy men causing overcrowding at KPH

Hospital moving to make additional space for growing number of male patients, says CEO

BY NADINE WILSON Observer staff reporter wilsonn@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, February 25, 2014    

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THE nonchalant attitude many Jamaican men display towards their health is believed to be one of the factors contributing in recent times to the overcrowding of the male wards at Kingston Public Hospital (KPH).

Chief executive officer for KPH, Beulah Stephens said that the hospital has outnumbered the bed capacity for male patients and is therefore looking for additional spaces to make up for this shortfall.

"What is happening is that most of our overcrowding is on the male medical side and we have a desire to refurbish one of our old wards to open it as a male medical ward, so we can have additional beds for that," she told the Jamaica Observer.

"If you go to the clinics, you will see a lot of females there, but you don't see the men in that number and when the men do get ill — and remember now that we are living much longer, therefore you will have the hypertension and the diabetes and men are not spared from those diseases -- so when they do get sick, they end up more in the hospital than the females do," the CEO pointed out, while noting that there is a need for more beds for critically ill patients as well.

Chairman of the South East Regional Health Authority, Lyttleton Shirley said that overcrowding is currently the main issue facing the institution, which is one of the largest in the region.

The hospital's capacity is 422 beds, although he said they often 'squeeze in' additional beds to go up to 480. A contract will be signed within the next few weeks to upgrade the old William ward to accommodate an additional 30 beds, although Shirley said the hospital needs at least 100 beds to meet the current demand. The old ward is currently being used as a lounge area for doctors.

"In recent times, we have seen just a ridiculous [number] of patients, [who] are being referred to KPH from all over the island to come to ask for treatment, whether it is from the University Hospital or from the other regions and our responsibility is just to find a bed wherever it must come from to treat with them, and so the pressure on the staff at the hospital is tremendous at all times," he said.

"As you know, by law, we can't refuse patients and we can't turn them back, so we try as much to accommodate them," he added.

Shirley admits that women tend to take better care of their health. However, he feels both gender need to be educated about best health care practices to minimise the need to go to the hospital.

"I find women are more conscious, on a timely basis, about their health, mainly because they are more attentive to the children and require to know that they are healthy so they can take care of the kids," he said, before adding that "men are more cavalier in terms of their health and sometimes take for granted symptoms that they may need to go to the doctor. Sometimes they do delay these timely visits and as you know in health, prevention is so critical to recovery. So there are those issues which historically have been the gender issue as to how men behave. But I think, we are seeing more and more females tending to delay their treatment too".

In addition to the money to be spent to upgrade the William Ward, Shirley said about $70 million have been spent to construct a facility for interns and over $3 million will be spent to make repairs to the roof of the chapel which is often visited by those in mourning. He said a memorandum of understanding will also be signed with the University Hospital of the West Indies in the coming weeks, which will see KPH training more of the university's doctors.

Shirley believes that public/private sector partnership will be extremely important going forward if the hospital is to become a centre of excellence. He hopes that corporate entities will consider adopting a ward, so the hospital would be able to meet the demands being placed on its' resources.

"We don't want to frighten corporate Jamaica, because we are not asking them to come up with a lump sum of money all at once. We are asking them to do it over a period of time. Do what they can afford, do it on a phased basis," he said,

"Corporate Jamaica has done a fantastic job at the Bustamante Hospital for Children in engaging the hospital. We believe that KPH carries a large number of elderly, more mature persons who have served Jamaica well, served their companies well, served their families well and now need to be taken care of and we would love for corporate Jamaica to extend that olive branch to us for us to see if we can make KPH a centre of excellence and the hub for health care, because we have some of the finest doctors you can ever imagine," he said.

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