May 11, 2017 News
Although overcrowding at the Accident and Emergency Department [A&E] of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation [GPHC] is not an unusual state of affairs, it has however been a cause for concern that the Ministry of Public Health has long been hoping to have addressed.
The Georgetown Public Hospital is the country’s main referral hospital. As a result it does not only cater to patients within Region Four but those who are referred from across the country as well. This, however, does not stop individuals from other regions from just stopping there for health care too.
Patients simply cannot be turned away and the service offered is absolutely free of cost. But this free service is also offered at the other public hospitals and health facilities nationwide.
In the quest to reduce the burden on the GPHC, Minister of Public Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence, like her predecessors, has time and again said publicly that there is a dire need for the peripheral hospitals to “pull their weight.”
But the situation persists. In fact so much so that over the past few days this publication was informed of a spike of patients seeking attention at the GPHC A&E Department.
In an invited comment on the situation yesterday, GPHC’s Director of Professional and Medical Services, Dr. Sheik Amir, said the hospital has been faced with this dilemma for a protracted period.
While the numbers are usually excessive, there are occasions that these already high numbers spike. “This is an ongoing problem; it just spikes every now and again and it is seasonal. Like after a holiday season, people, some diabetics and so, will eat and drink more and tend to suffer more complications that is as far as I see it…there are the [increased] hypertensive cases that we see too,” explained Dr. Amir.
He disclosed that the majority of patients waiting for beds at the A&E are medical patients and not those requiring surgical procedures. “There are many with heart conditions, diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney issues,” Dr. Amir revealed.
The Hospital Director speculated that the patient traffic is greater at the GPHC mainly because, “people [in some cases] just don’t feel confident going anywhere else…or in other cases people go to other facilities and don’t get proper treatment and are sent here.”
“It is a combination of factors,” said Dr. Amir as he also shared his conviction that a major problem that could be linked to the existing situation is that “Guyanese don’t look after themselves; they only deal with it [health problems] when they encounter problems and the majority are males that are admitted.”
A number of patients seen at the A&E are treated and sent away but there are, however, others who are found to have conditions that warrant them being admitted.
Dr. Amir, who only returned from vacation leave yesterday, said that he was aware that by mid-afternoon yesterday alone a total of 18 patients were awaiting the availability of beds so that they could be admitted to the wards.
“It gets worse on weekends because [some of] the peripheral hospitals just don’t do anything…They don’t have supplies, they done have drugs, labs and whatever. We have seen an increase in the number of patients coming to our labs and x-ray departments for services and this is consuming our re-agents,” Dr. Amir shared.
He added, “Remember you have to plan and budget for a certain period but when you have to see an overwhelming increase and do more testing and do more x-rays, you run out before time.”
The situation, according to Dr. Amir, is often compounded by a shortage of staff. “We always have a shortage of staff, nurses especially, and they are the backbone of the services we offer…We can’t deny that,” said Dr. Amir.
He said that because of the pressure of overcrowding, “some of our staff become overwhelmed because when they have to work they got to work with all of that [challenges] and Guyanese are not necessarily the nicest people [sometimes] on this earth.”
According to the Jamaica-trained Dr. Amir, “If you think some Jamaicans are bad, some of our very own people are horrible. Sometimes they are abusive and all kinds of things that are uncalled for [they do]…but the attention they get here is not bad.”
He disclosed that while at the Kingston, Jamaica Public Hospital for instance, persons are required to pay a small fee for the medical services rendered, at the GPHC services are offered completely free of costs but yet many patients are not appreciative.
This, however, does not mean that the hospital does not have some glaring shortcomings too. According to Dr. Amir, this certainly does not entitle staff to be the recipients of abuse [be it verbal or otherwise].
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