Story come to...'Bustmante'

Story come to...'Bustmante'


Friday, November 15, 2019

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Hospitals and health care have been the talking point this week. Altercations and promised funds not yet spent at an overwhelmed Bustamante Hospital for Children had the 'Suss Brigade' busy. Our health care system is in need of grandma's remedy — some white rum and lime to ease the fever and clear the congestion.

The reported bust-up at Bustamante Hospital centred on a mother who felt that her child did not receive adequate treatment at the hospital and ended up in a tracing match with the doctor. The mother felt she was handled in a callous manner, provoked by a long waiting time. The doctor in question has since asked for a transfer stating that she does not feel safe working at the hospital, which has a long history of patient-doctor altercations.

Long waits at clinics and hospitals are the norm, this is where patients and patience buck-up. A doctor's appointment can turn into a day-long affair. The stress levels climb higher and higher as the waiting room backlog grows, and doctors are put under more pressure to move things along. The result, patients feel that they have not been heard and health care professionals are frustrated and worn out from treating cross-angry-miserable patients.

A few years ago, an altercation at Bustamante Hospital gained attention when an enraged parent broke a window and a staff member was injured by flying glass. Customer service improvements were promised then, but it is clear that our only children's hospital — much like many of our other public hospitals — is struggling to provide adequate service to our people.

Talking with a friend with health care experience, we spoke about having customer service representatives providing information to patients to help ease the strain and soothe nerves. She added another layer to the health care communication story: “Some people don't want to hear from a nurse. They want the diagnoses to come from a doctor. And if the doctor isn't saying what they want to hear, then you're back at square one.” Where do we go from here?

Hiring more doctors for the public health system will add further pressure to the national budget. Right now we are at the when-it-mawga-it-pop status.

There is a need to fill the gap of professionals in the public health sector, and for many years successive administrations have looked overseas to help. There is no doubt that this has been beneficial, but we must also make sure that in trying to solve one problem, we don't create another.

Carmen Johnson, the president of the Nurses' Association of Jamaica, shared a concern that doctors from overseas working in Jamaican hospitals would benefit from a course on how Jamaicans talk. To a Jamaican, your hand begins at your fingertip and ends at the arm pit. Nurse Johnson is worried about the possibility of misdiagnoses.

All in all, compassion and empathy are main ingredients in the pain reliever that must be administered. The patients and their families must remember that they are not the only ones in the equation. Medical professionals are under stress and strain too.

Our doctors have sworn to do no harm, even when provoked or threatened. Ask yourself, though, how would you react if you were receiving the threats and curses? Those who provide treatment must also remember that issues of health are scary and oftentimes overwhelming, and it is important that people feel reassured and that their questions and concerns are answered properly.

The other argument that came to the fore this week, was a newspaper report that funds raised from the Shaggy and Friends Concert had not been received by the Bustamante Hospital. Eyebrows were raised and tongues were wagging: “What happen to the money? Where it gone?” Further discussion revealed that the reason for the slow handover of funds had nothing to do with malfeasance, but was due to complications with plans for further development of the hospital. There was no space to put the promised beds. The administration of the hospital have since announced that they will be constructing a new ward to solve that problem.

Hopefully the mashed corns and bruised feelings will heal. It is clear that improvements to our health sector cannot come only from the Government and it is important to make sure that those who give their time, money, and attention to improving the health care system feel they have not worked in vain. We continue to be grateful for the Diaspora family and Jamaicans here at home who raise money to buy needed equipment that saves the lives of our brothers and sisters. Old time people say “One hand alone cyaan clap”. We will have to work together.

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or

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