A working elevator... at last

Relief for Victoria Jubilee Hospital staff, patients

BY RACQUEL PORTER
Observer staff reporter
porterr@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, July 13, 2019

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SEVEN months after the media highlighted a malfunctioning elevator that forced pregnant women, mothers with newborn babies and staff to climb several flights of stairs, the hospital now has a functioning lift.

In fact the hospital, the largest maternal facility in the Caribbean, is slated to benefit from an additional three elevators at the end of the financial year.

During the commissioning yesterday of the elevator at the 128-year-old institution by Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton, National Health Fund Chief Executive Officer Everton Anderson and South Eastern Regional Health Authority (SERHA) board chairman Wentworth Charles, the media was told that the elevator was installed to the tune of $16, 417,468.92.

After it was reported in December 2018 that the staff had to be lifting patients, using the staircase to go the wards, Dr Tufton said he immediately ordered a report to examine the current state of elevators in public medical facilities to better get an understanding what was taking place.

Noting that 14 elevators will be installed at hospitals across the island within a year-and-a-half at a cost of almost $200 million, Dr Tufton said it should not take a crisis to elicit a response.

“It really shouldn't, and it is a reflection on all of us that until someone is literally threatened, where it means life or death, you don't move in to the process. Unfortunately, that is how we have treated our public health infrastructures over the years,” Dr Tufton continued.

“If the thing don't bruk down and stop nobody seems to care. If Cornwall (Regional Hospital) never come to a halt because of toxic fumes [it probably would not get any attention] as it was there 10 years before, getting only Band-Aid,” Tufton said, pointing out that the national attention brought by the media “forced all of us to be a lot more proactive”.

“The reality is that we have to get away from this idea that management in public health only has to start with a crisis. There is such a thing called sustainable maintenance. There is such a thing as strategic planning. There is such a thing as looking ahead, anticipating challenges, depreciating assets and finding replacements... so that there is continuity of service and that the service grows with the demand of the system, population changes, etcetera,” the minister said, adding that he would like to leave that legacy behind at the end of his tenure.

Emphasising the need for sustainable planning, Tufton explained that lack of maintenance of an elevator will overshadow the 7,000 babies that were delivered incident-free last year, among the other positive things that have been happening at the facility.

“We need to learn from the errors and mistakes that we have made,” he said.

At the same time, Tufton said it is important to develop a culture of maintenance in public health.

“We have too much downtime in our equipment and our capacity, therefore, is hampered to respond to the needs of people, largely because of maintenance issues,” he said.

The minister asked the SERHA board chair to do a maintenance review of infrastructure across the region to determine what is the capacity of its maintenance portfolio, who are the people involved, their training, structures in place, as well as technology changes that would make them more efficient.

Stressing that the maintenance department within public health facilities has to be up-to-date with the latest technology to carry out repairs, he said when equipment are being acquired an input of the local maintenance team must be a part of the contract.

“It cannot be that we have a piece of equipment and we have an arrangement in place for maintenance and the maintenance man has to travel from Europe to come to Jamaica when it breaks down. We have to have a better arrangement. We are a small country and I know that we may not factor this in the scheme of things in the global marketplace and that's a disadvantage.

“... So, if you buy a piece of German equipment you must negotiate with the Germans that they train some local people to do certain types of maintenance,” said Tufton.


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