Nurses tell PM: POSGH at crisis point

Al­most five months af­ter the cen­tral block at the Port-of-Spain Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal was con­demned fol­low­ing the 6.9 earth­quake which forced the im­me­di­ate re­lo­ca­tion of pa­tients and staff—an­swers are be­ing de­mand­ed as to when de­mo­li­tion and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion works will be­gin.

Urg­ing Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley to in­ter­vene, pres­i­dent of T&T Reg­is­tered Nurs­es As­so­ci­a­tion (TTR­NA) Idi Stew­art de­scribed the sit­u­a­tion at the hos­pi­tal as one which had reached “cri­sis point.”

Hav­ing dis­patched a let­ter one week ago im­plor­ing Row­ley to pri­ori­tise na­tion­al spend­ing pat­terns, Stew­art ques­tioned why plans were afoot to spend $850 mil­lion to build a new hos­pi­tal in San­gre Grande when the ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ty was ad­e­quate­ly meet­ing the needs of the res­i­dents at this time.

While Stew­art did not dis­miss the need for a mod­ern fa­cil­i­ty with­in the East­ern Re­gion­al Health Au­thor­i­ty (ER­HA), he said ur­gent at­ten­tion had to be paid to the POS­GH.

He said, “Pa­tients are be­ing squeezed in­to the old­er part of the build­ing which is more than 160 years old and was ini­tial­ly poor­ly con­struct­ed.”

“They are be­ing placed in units not de­signed for this large in­flux of pa­tients.”

Stew­art claimed six wards had been com­pressed to fit with­in the phys­i­cal di­men­sions which pre­vi­ous­ly on­ly housed the Ear, Nose and Throat Ward.

This, he said, had led to se­vere over-crowd­ing and pro­vid­ed the per­fect en­vi­ron­ment for cross-con­t­a­m­i­na­tion.

Three weeks ago, the head nurs­es at the Ca­su­al­ty De­part­ment protest­ed by stay­ing away from work for one day in a bid to com­mu­ni­cate their dis­plea­sure with the cramped con­di­tions.

A male nurs­ing as­sis­tant and scrub tech­ni­cian ex­plained, “Due to the lack of avail­able bed space, we have to hus­tle pa­tients to leave be­fore they are due to be dis­charged.”

“I am not sure how detri­men­tal that is in the im­me­di­ate sense but I know it is hav­ing a long-term ef­fect be­cause we have seen pa­tients re­turn­ing to us be­cause com­pli­ca­tions have arisen and they come back for long-term care.”

He too crit­i­cised the move by hos­pi­tal au­thor­i­ties to com­man­deer cer­tain ar­eas with­in the hos­pi­tal to erect make-shift wards.

One such place was the area where pa­tients would usu­al­ly wait to have to have their pre­scrip­tions filled out­side the phar­ma­cy.

A vis­it to the hos­pi­tal con­firmed the area was now a tem­po­rary ward with cur­tain di­viders be­ing used to sep­a­rate pa­tients who were clear­ly vis­i­ble to any­one in that space.

Com­plain­ing about the lack of pri­va­cy for both the staff and pa­tients, a fe­male nurse with more than 12 years ex­pe­ri­ence, added: “Air- con­di­tioned tents are now be­ing used to store equip­ment and sup­plies be­cause we have no space on the wards.”

“And yes, we are re­fer­ring pa­tients to oth­er hos­pi­tals be­cause our space is very lim­it­ed now and we can­not ac­com­mo­date them as be­fore.”

Stew­art said plans had been dis­cussed in Sep­tem­ber 2011, re­lat­ing to the con­struc­tion of the main block be­ing built on the south-east cor­ner of the ex­ist­ing com­pound but this nev­er came to fruition.

In­di­cat­ing that users of the hos­pi­tal were frus­trat­ed, Stew­art said, “Staff and pa­tients are ag­i­tat­ed be­cause it is an on­go­ing prob­lem, it is a dai­ly prob­lem.”

“They are un­able to get beds be­cause they have moved from over 400 beds down to less than 100 beds so they are re­main­ing in the Ac­ci­dent and Emer­gency longer now. They al­so have to re­main on trol­leys longer too…every thing is be­ing af­fect­ed.”

Ac­cept­ing that the North West Re­gion­al Health Au­thor­i­ty (NWRHA) had been do­ing every­thing pos­si­ble to en­sure the com­fort of the pa­tients in their care, Stew­art said non-es­sen­tial ser­vices had al­ready been trans­ferred to the St. James In­fir­mary.

How­ev­er, he ap­pealed to the Min­istry of Fi­nance to al­lo­cate di­rect funds to­wards the con­struc­tion of a new cen­tral block at the Port-of-Spain Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal which would pro­vide a ca­pac­i­ty of 540 beds.

While the staff mem­bers are clam­our­ing for some kind of protest, Stew­art is­sued a spe­cial ap­peal for them to hold strain.

How­ev­er, he cau­tioned that a shut-down may be loom­ing if the au­thor­i­ties did not move to take im­me­di­ate ac­tion to rec­ti­fy the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion.

Reporter: An­na-Lisa Paul

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