MONTEGO BAY, St James — Noting that about 80 per cent of surgical admissions in western Jamaica's State-run hospitals are patients with injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents and gunshot wounds, clinical coordinator at the Cornwall Regional Hospital, Delroy Fray is adamant that stiffer penalties should be put in place to punish gunmen and irresponsible road users who, he said, are putting strain on hospital resources.
"Between motor vehicle accidents and gunshot wounds those people are going to bleed the health service budget. If you don't mind sharp, people with real chronic illnesses that require treatment in the public sector are going to have a problem if we don't get a hold of the trauma in this country," Dr Fray warned.
For instance, the veteran medical practitioner pointed out that data obtained from the Savanna-la-Mar Public General Hospital on Tuesday revealed that there were some 20 trauma patients at that facility. He, however, was not in possession of statistics for the Cornwall Regional Hospital and the Falmouth Public General Hospital, at the time.
He expressed concern that not only do the trauma cases put a strain on the budget of the facilities but they also prolong the time for individuals awaiting elective surgeries.
"Surgical admissions at our western hospitals, 80 per cent of them are trauma-related. Now you tell me, how patients are going to get elective care?" he asked, adding that "I am concerned about that."
"We have a big time problem piling up. At one time Savanna-la-Mar Hospital had 21 patients with fractures that needed to be fixed. Twenty-one lie down in hospital take up bed space — either bikes, motor vehicles or gunshots."
He made reference to an incident in Westmoreland where, after a man who sustained a gunshot injury was treated and released, seven other individuals were shot, allegedly in a revenge attack.
"There was a guy who got a gunshot come into Savanna-la-Mar hospital. They fixed his leg and when he came out, the week that followed, seven people came in with gunshot wounds. It is alleged that it might be some reprisal thing," he emphasised.
Fed up with the swelling in the number of patients nursing gunshot injuries at western Jamaica-based hospitals, Dr Fray contended that harsher penalties could be the answer for anyone held with an illegal firearm.
"You have to have some heavy sanctions. Something drastic needs to be done that people are afraid of," Dr Fray argued.
Recently, Security Minister Dr Horace Chang suggested that the proposed Firearms (Prohibition, Restriction and Regulation) Act could be a deterrent for gun crimes. There have been concerns raised about some aspects of the legislation but Dr Chang said he firmly believes the Act is an appropriate response to what now obtains in the country.
Under the legislation, the minimum sentence for anyone found in possession of an illegal firearm is 15 years.
"If you're carrying an illegal firearm, we know it is part of your intention to kill somebody — and we are gonna take you off the streets and therefore we have instituted some severe penalties," the security minister said during last week's ground-breaking ceremony for the Frome Police Station in Westmoreland.
Meanwhile, Dr Fray is also appealing to gunslingers to put down their weapons as they are contributing to the "unnecessary delay" for the treatment of other critical surgical patients.
"The other appeal comes down to anger again: When you going to use the gun, think twice that you could be depriving somebody who is having cancer, somebody who has an illness that needs to be treated expeditiously, but because you are going to pull that trigger you are going to deprive that person's care," he argued.
Dr Fray is also calling on reckless drivers who cause accidents, which result in the hospitalisation of injured individuals, to act more responsibly.
"We have to ask people to be very responsible when they are driving. We need some discipline on the road — and I don't know if police can help with that. We don't know how we can get people to understand that, in the long run, it's their families who are affected," he further argued.
"Secondly, I know motorcycle transportation is cheap and so forth, but we are going to have to ask them to adhere to the rules. There is the speed limit, there is the helmet rule —people must use that. And I think the motorcycle riders, they should go through a course of road code use. When I watch how dem drive, me don't sure they understand some of those road codes. And I don't know how the licence to drive those things come about."
In the meantime, he welcomed the recent partnership between the Ministry of Health and Wellness and four private health facilities in St James, which is aimed at clearing the backlog of elective surgeries in hospitals.
"The Ministry of Health made an initiative to clear some backlog of elective cases, using private facilities. In fact, that initiative is such a good initiative so that young men who have hernia who can't work, we can get to clear them off. And old men with their catheter in, we can get them to have the catheter removed. It is one of the best initiatives there is. Women with fibroid that require hysterectomy can get them [done]…," Dr Fray said.