If ever there was a cry for change, I would say take the Ministry of Health out of the government hands. A dream it can only be as I see quite clearly that health-care is the responsibility of any ‘civil’ government. I say ‘civil’ because the state of affairs of healthcare in JA borders on egregious violation of our basic human rights to fair and decent care.
This is an indictment on the government and as long as the media continues to report on the hole that is being dug that will see those culpable be thrown into their own graves, we will have a case history documented for reference when the inevitable unfolds.
Ambulance shortage delays hospital emergencies
(Jamaica Observer) Sunday, 24 May 2015
DUE to the shortage of ambulances at public hospitals, emergency processes are being delayed, an issue the Jamaica Observer has uncovered.
Health care workers have told the Sunday Observer that, because of the shortage of units and some defective ones, emergency processes get shunted for four to five hours.
One worker at the Spanish Town General Hospital said a typical scenario is when crash victims come in — something quite common due to the hospital’s location.
“We see many crash victims because of the bypass and highway. There is only one ambulance, which can only accomodate one stretcher patient, therefore the other has to wait four to five hours for it to return before they can go anywhere. It is ridiculous,” the worker said.
The worker said that, to make matters worse, when private ambulances are contacted, issues of insurance coverage surface.
“The nurses will not go into non-hospital ambulances as there is no insurance coverage,” he said.
The health care worker explained that, as a result, the intern on call at nights has to journey with the private ambulance, which further delays ward work.
The solution, according to the worker, would be to get the equipment needed to assess victims instead of transfering them for tests.
“The Government would save so much more money just by having a CT scanner at Spanish Town Hospital, which sees more accident victims because of its location than any other hospital,” the worker said.
He further explained that the CT scan allows the doctors to see inside the body without cutting, in order to detect where the problem is and address it immediately.
At the May Pen Hospital the situation is no different, as there is only one functioning ambulance, with two defective ones on the compound.
Like Spanish Town, a health worker at May Pen explained that the hospital also sees a lot of accident victims because of its proximity to Highway 2000, but with only one working ambulance, delays are like a recurring decimal.
“The ambulance can only hold one stretcher patient, two wheelchair patients. When there are emergencies it causes a delay in the transporting of patients for transfers to other hospitals and getting investigations done that aren’t available at hospitals, such as CT scans and echocardiograms,” the worker stated.
Moreover, on the north-eastern side of the island, the situation is alarming, and on top of the ambulance shortage, the Port Antonio Hospital has no ambulance driver, a situation highlighted recently.
In a press release sent on April 30, Free Winnifred Beach Benevolent Society Coordinator, Maria Carla Gulotta outlined that at approximately 4:35 pm a group of visitors were enjoying themselves on the beach when a woman entered the shallow part of the water and started vomiting, after which she collapsed into the water and was rescued by the lifeguard and onlookers.
Gulotta further stated that the woman complained of feeling sick and as a result, the lifeguard on duty called the Port Antonio Hospital, requesting that an ambulance be sent to transport the woman to the hospital.
In the meantime, Gulotta said a medical doctor present at the beach offered her services, and the marine and local police personnel came to lend support.
But, amidst the emergency, Gulotta said that after numerous calls were made to the hospital, an official at the institution informed the lifeguard and residents that there was no one available to drive the ambulance. After an hour and five minutes wait, there was still no ambulance.
Gulotta said that the doctor became worried, as the woman’s condition started to deteriorate significantly and attempts were made to transport her to the hospital with a private motor vehicle, but she died. Even up to that point, there was still no sign of the ambulance.
“The Benevolent Society and residents are extremely disappointed by the lack of response of the Port Antonio Hospital to provide an ambulance during an emergency. The loss of a life is most regrettable and such a poor response by the Port Antonio Hospital must never happen again,” Gulotta said.
She added that the benevolent society will be seeking all available legal options to ascertain how the Port Antonio Hospital can be held accountable for this “gross negligence which resulted in a loved one’s life being lost”.
At the Princess Margaret Hospital things are no different and Jamaica Labour Party caretaker for St Thomas Eastern Delano Seiveright said that, while there is only one working ambulance in the parish, it is always being utilised.
“The ambulance is always in use taking patients to and from Kingston,” Seiveright said.
As a result, he said that the hospital has to borrow the ambulance from the St Thomas Sugar Company in Duckenfield or the ambulance from another private sector company, Serge Island Dairies, to carry out duties.
“The demand is high and the hospital has to rely on the private sector for help. It is extremely difficult for people in rural areas to receive help,” Seiveright said.
In the meantime, Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson recently announced that between 2012 and 2014, the Government purchased 19 new ambulances which were deployed to the public health system, and with support from the CHASE Fund, another 16 will soon be purchased.
However, regarding the procurement process, repeated calls to the minister’s phone went unanswered.
When the permanent secretary in the health ministry was contacted, he said that he was travelling to the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, suggested that queries be directed to the acting chief medical officer Dr Marion Bullock-Ducasse.
Dr Bullock Ducasse did not provide the Sunday Observer with the information, despite a promise to do so.