– recommendations made to ramp-up staff safety
From a security standpoint, the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation [GPHC] is a soft target. This is the deduction of the hospital’s Chief Executive Officer [CEO], Brigadier (ret’d) George Lewis.
Given his extensive military background, Brigadier Lewis has an appreciation for the importance of security. “If anyone wants to do anything to harm us, they can easily do so,” he asserted.
In speaking on the issue of security for the premier public health institution, the CEO recognised that the GPHC, like other major health institutions of the world, always has a need for enhanced security.
But according to him, even as security is taken into consideration care must also be taken to ensure that it is balanced with accessibility. This is in light of the fact that the hospital is a public entity and as a result, “we have to accommodate the public to access our services or so that they can visit their relatives and so on”.
According to Brigadier Lewis, “We have to be very careful about how we balance security against the needs of the public.”
In so doing, he said that the hospital has implemented a security system that seeks to monitor people without denying them access.
“The level of monitoring has to be in such a way that it does not hinder access to members of the public. Yes, there is need for enhanced security, but we have to look at how we are balancing security needs against the needs of the people,” Brigadier Lewis reiterated.
Staffers at a number of health facilities, across the country, including the GPHC, have over the years complained about being abused, both verbally and physically, by visitors.
This state of affairs was particularly amplified at the GPHC during a visit of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Social Services to the hospital in May of this year.
During that visit, doctors of the Accident and Emergency Unit expressed concern for their, and other staffers’ safety, since there have been incidents in the past where staff were verbally and physically abused.
This situation was detailed in the report of the Committee which also recommended that “the GPHC should be manned by armed security personnel [male and female] on a 24-hour basis.” The Committee also recommended that “security systems should be put in place to protect staff against unruly patients or their family members.”
Committee members who made up the delegation that visited the GPHC included Dr. Vindhya Persaud, the Chairperson and representative of the PPP; Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs and representative of the [APNU+AFC], Valerie Garrido-Lowe; Minister within the Ministry of Public Health and representative of [APNU+AFC], Dr. Karen Cummings; Member of Parliament and PPP representative, Mr. Alister Charlie and Member of Parliament and PPP representative, Dr. Vishwa Mahadeo.
The situation of health workers being at high risk of violence has long been recognized by the World Health Organisation too. On a global scale, WHO has observed that between eight percent and 38 percent of health workers suffer physical violence at some point in their careers. In fact, WHO has noted that “in disaster and conflict situations, health workers may become the targets of collective or political violence”.
Based on information ascertained by WHO, the categories of health workers most at risk include nurses and other staff directly involved in patient care, emergency room staff and paramedics.
But WHO has declared that “violence against health workers is unacceptable. It has not only a negative impact on the psychological and physical well-being of health-care staff, but also affects their job motivation. As a consequence, this violence compromises the quality of care and puts health-care provision at risk. It also leads to immense financial loss in the health sector”.
Among interventions to prevent violence against health workers in non-emergency settings is a move towards focusing on strategies to better manage violent patients and high-risk visitors, according to WHO. The body has noted that while interventions for emergency settings focus on ensuring the physical security of health-care facilities, more research is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of these programmes, particularly in low-resource settings.
In the interim, though, in order to address this rather prevalent shortcoming in the health sector, WHO, together with the International Labour Organisation and other bodies, jointly developed a framework of guidelines for addressing workplace violence in the health sector, to support the development of violence prevention policies in non-emergency settings, as well as a questionnaire and study protocol to research the magnitude and consequences in such settings.
When it comes to emergency settings, WHO has developed methods to systematically collect data on attacks on health facilities, health workers and patients.
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