Doctors say conditions at Cornwall Regional Hospital place patients at riskThursday, June 24, 2021
BY ROCHELLE CLAYTON
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Doctors at the State-run Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay, which is undergoing a multi-billion-dollar refurbishing exercise, have shared horrible stories about the conditions under which they work, and which, they say, are putting the lives of patients at risk.
“We do not have enough bed space. So, currently in trauma unit, especially in recent weeks, [patients] are being resuscitated on the floors. If an emergency comes in, we are so packed that we cannot do cardiac compressions on the emergency bed as we should, because it is already [occupied] so we have to put them on a backboard to resuscitate them on the ground,” one doctor, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Jamaica Observer West.
“It does not look good, and it is not standard of care. It is almost an inhumane, not almost, it is an inhumane experience, and we have to remember these are not well [people], these are [people] who are sick.”
The doctors also voiced concerns over several other issues including the dysfunctionality of the CT scanner located at the facility, and the air-conditioning unit located at the Falmouth Public General Hospital, where the doctors now conduct surgical procedures due to the rehabilitation of the Cornwall Regional Hospital.
“Our CT scanner is another issue; sometimes it feels like it is down than it is operational. The Government is trying to conserve resources, but they are not paying attention to the key things that waste resources. Whenever our CT scanner is out, we [must] outsource CT scans [from] private institutions through the Government's private partnerships [with] Radiology West and the Montego Bay Hospital,” one doctor noted.
“Currently, we are not doing outpatient CT scans because the hospital owes private institutions money. We got an e-mail from the head of radiology that no outpatient CT appointments are being made so they would have to go [get CT scans done] privately.”
When contacted by the Observer West, senior medical officer at the Cornwall Regional Hospital, Dr Derek Harvey, validated aspects of the doctors' concerns, as he acknowledged that more needs to be done to rectify the issues being faced.
“The Cornwall Regional Hospital, as you know, went down in 2016. As a result, we do not have the main building and we have moved into what used to be the accommodation, the nurses' and doctors' quarters and this has confined the space. In terms of resuscitating on the floor, I am not aware of those incidents, there may have been one or two,” said Dr Harvey.
“I did witness it once when there was an overflow [but] in the last few weeks I have not witnessed it. There may have been one or two incidents in the past but let me put it this way, if someone comes in and there is a critical situation and you have to intervene and, in these circumstances, if the bed is springy, you may put the person on the floor but in terms of saying that this a recurring event, I would not agree with that because it is not the norm,” the senior medical officer pointed out.
The outsourcing of CT scans, Dr Harvey said, is not abnormal as the institution usually outsourced this test once their machine is down. However, he pointed out, resources may have been stretched due to the management of the novel coronavirus pandemic, so the CT scanner has not been repaired.
“The one CT scanner in government, which serves the region, is located at Cornwall Regional Hospital and [we] are doing both inpatient and outpatient. In the past, if there was a problem with the machine, we would always outsource. I know that just recently, there was some cash flow issue, you know, you come to the end of each financial year, and it may be so especially [due to] constraint, where the focus has been more on the management of the pandemic so you know resources would be stretched,” Dr Harvey explained.
While pointing out that the facility must outsource and prioritise CT scans while their machine is down, “especially if they are urgent,” Dr Harvey maintained that no patient will be turned away from the facility due to limited resources.
“As clinicians, [we must] prioritise so if [a patient] comes to you and for example, [the patient] is having a backache and it has been going on for a long time, we may have to outsource [their] CT [scan], instead of someone who may have had a head injury who is a priority. If you look at the number of scans [we] have to do, even from the practical point of view, there would be a time constraint so if somebody goes under a CT scanner for a number of times, the [amount] of scans they are probably requesting is going to outweigh what [we] have available so, the outsourcing has been going on for a little while,” he argued.
“In terms of saying to persons that they have to go and do it privately, no, that is not the policy of the Government but you know, some persons may opt to use that and from a practical point of view, if you are in a situation and there is an emergency and you get an appointment for maybe two to three weeks down the road, and you have the option of paying for it, you may say you would rather do that privately, but you are not going to be told to do it privately,” said Dr Harvey.
The air-conditioning unit located at the Falmouth Public General Hospital theatre, where the doctors must now conduct surgical operations, Dr Harvey said, has been a major concern due to maintenance issues.
“There seems to be a maintenance issue that we are trying to get addressed so whenever the clinicians would come there, the doctors and nurses are prepared to work but when you come, you're relying on a system which is [not] fully functional. We have had the regional maintenance department look at it, we have had the local department look at it. They have outsourced the services of some of the private companies which deal with air conditioning but somehow, it has not been fully addressed,” Dr Harvey told the Observer West.
“As it stands right now, I know that they have both local persons looking at it and some of the experts looking at it, but the situation has not [been] resolved as we speak. One cools very well and the other one doesn't, and I can't really tell you why not, because I am not an expert. It doesn't cool but you have to maintain [a particular] temperature to operate and it seems to be an issue,” he said.
“I know the region sends the money to get it up and running but probably we need a detailed analytical analysis as to [what is] the problem because I have actually witnessed them buying new parts and putting in, yet the problem continues.”
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