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Member of Parliament for Fyzabad, Dr Lackram Bodoe MP.

The South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) is being knocked by a former chairman for Monday’s chaos outside the San Fernando Teaching Hospital by patients seeking care at the outpatient clinics.

In a press release, Dr Lackram Bodo, who is also Fyzabad MP, said the SWRHA needs to fundamentally review how they process patients at outpatient clinics. If it is true that the term of the current SWRHA Board of Directors has expired, he said the Minister of Health must take responsibility to ensure that not only is a new board appointed quickly but that the CEO is held accountable for a situation as what occurred on Monday.

“Doctors, nurses, paraclinical and administrative staff continue to toil under difficult conditions to keep the regular healthcare system working. However, it appears that Minister of Health is failing in his responsibility to ensure the necessary oversight of the RHAs and to guarantee that the much-needed resources so necessary to provide timely and proper healthcare for citizens are available.”

Noting that there were similar complaints at the NCRHA outpatient clinics about two months ago, he said, “The large numbers of patients gathered at the entrance of the outpatient department without adequate physical distancing ironically puts them and others at risk of contracting and or spreading COVID-19 at a healthcare institution. This is especially worrisome at a time when the health authorities are reporting increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, including the highly transmissible Brazil P1 variant.

Whilst the block system of appointment, where patients are given specific times to attend the clinics is useful in normal times, it obviously collapsed. The failure of management, including hospital security to recognise early the impending crisis meant that the police had to be called in to restore order, putting police officers themselves at risk of catching the virus.”

However, Dr Bodoe said the fundamental issue is that that whilst the parallel healthcare system is treating with COVID-19 cases, the normal healthcare system is failing many patients, many of whom continue to require treatment for their chronic health conditions, with others seeking care for emerging health issues.

Bodoe said the system for making new appointments which currently requires the patient or nominee to physically go to the outpatient department to secure an appointment can be improved with the use of technology for virtual interviews.

In response to Monday’s chaos, SWRHA stated that the matter was immediately addressed via supplemental measures and was confident that their outpatients will continue to be appropriately accommodated, consistent with the Block Appointment System (BAS). Reminding patients to arrive 15 minutes before Block Appointments, the Authority stated, “Arrival in advance of appointment schedule, leads to overcrowding and violation of COVID-19 Health protocols.”

The Authority also advised that only one relative (if necessary) should accompany the patient. Patients who were unsure of or require information on clinic appointments were encouraged to call the Authority’s toll-free Customer Care Centre at 87-SWRHA (877-9742).