Clin­ics un­der gun

MoBay vi­o­lence put­ting pres­sure on pub­lic health fa­cil­i­ties but Corn­wall Re­gional cop­ing

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Christo­pher Thomas Gleaner Writer

TWESTERN BU­REAU: HE RAMPANT, vi­o­lent crim­i­nal­ity in Mon­tego Bay, St James, is squeez­ing the lifeblood out of the pub­lic health sys­tem in the par­ish, but the main fa­cil­ity in west­ern Ja­maica, the Corn­wall Re­gional Hos­pi­tal (CRH), is cop­ing. Last week, med­i­cal per­son­nel in sec­tions of Mon­tego Bay told The Gleaner that the pres­sure is get­ting to them, with some fac­ing threats from crim­i­nals de­mand­ing spe­cial treat­ment. One doc­tor told The Gleaner that he was pre­pared to walk away from the pub­lic-health sec­tor if he is not trans­ferred from west­ern Ja­maica shortly. This has prompted Health Min­is­ter Dr Christo­pher Tufton to plan a visit to

the re­gion. Tufton, who is now in Wash­ing­ton, DC, on an of­fi­cial visit, told a Gleaner spe­cial in­ves­tiga­tive team, now based in Mon­tego Bay, that he has re­ceived the re­ports and will tour at least three clin­ics in the volatile com­mu­ni­ties on Thurs­day.

He is sched­uled to visit clin­ics in Glen­de­von, Salt Spring and Granville, which have been heav­ily im­pacted by the re­cent flare-up of vi­o­lence in St James.

The tour will be con­ducted with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the health min­istry, the West­ern Re­gional Health Au­thor­ity (WRHA), the Peace Man­age­ment Ini­tia­tive, and the po­lice.

“The vi­o­lence which has been af­fect­ing ar­eas of St James has also im­pacted the work of the health fa­cil­i­ties and has been a ma­jor chal­lenge for staff. Health is al­ready a high-stress en­vi­ron­ment, so I am very con­cerned about the added pres­sure that this sit­u­a­tion has placed on our staff,” Tufton later said in a re­lease.

He said the tour would seek to al­lay some of the fears of the staff and look at what se­cu­rity im­prove­ments, if any, can be made at the fa­cil­i­ties.

STAND UP TO CRIM­I­NALS

Tufton called for the com­mu­nity to stand against the per­pe­tra­tors of vi­o­lence to en­sure that they can con­tinue to ac­cess much-needed and im­por­tant ser­vices such as health care with­out un­due in­ter­fer­ence.

But even as some med­i­cal per­son­nel com­plain, Tony Hart, chair­man of the CRH, told The Gleaner that the fa­cil­ity was man­ag­ing its pa­tient load ef­fec­tively.

Al­though the mur­der tally in St James now stands at 199, with at least 15 mur­ders hav­ing been com­mit­ted in Mon­tego Bay in the past week – in­clud­ing the shoot­ing death of one vic­tim in Ir­win last night – Hart pointed to the cre­ation of a new fe­male ward at the CRH as the saviour.

“We have just put in a new fe­male ward [and] it eased a lot of the stress ev­ery­where, be­cause we were un­der a lot of stress. They have man­aged the pa­tient load there, though with great dif­fi­culty,” Hart told The Gleaner.

“The doc­tors have worked over­time. All the doc­tors and nurses are do­ing an amaz­ing job, and the sit­u­a­tion has calmed down a lot now, so I think that it will be all right,” added Hart.

“We never trans­ferred any pa­tients ... . It was just long hours, and we coped. The new ward has helped a lot.”

Avail­abil­ity of re­sources to ad­e­quately treat pa­tients, par­tic­u­larly blood for op­er­a­tions and bed space for pa­tients await­ing surgery, has posed a se­ri­ous chal­lenge at the CRH in re­cent times.

Last De­cem­ber, Calvin G. Brown, the then chair­man of the WRHA, ob­served that the hos­pi­tal’s nu­mer­ous surg­eries for gun­shot vic­tims had re­sulted in a sig­nif­i­cant short­age of blood, which, in turn, con­trib­uted to the deaths of four pre­ma­ture ba­bies at the fa­cil­ity.

“One of the rea­sons why we do not have blood platelets is be­cause of the many shoot­ings and ac­ci­dents we have been hav­ing. Be­cause of all the op­er­a­tions that we have had to per­form, it de­pletes the amount of blood that we have at the hos­pi­tal,” said Brown.

OVER­WHELMED WITH TRAUMA CASES

In June this year, con­sul­tant neu­ro­sur­geon at the CRH, Pro­fes­sor Renn Hol­ness, com­plained that treat­ment of nu­mer­ous gun­shot and ac­ci­dent vic­tims sti­fled the hos­pi­tal’s ca­pac­ity to per­form op­er­a­tions on other pa­tients.

“We are over­whelmed with the trauma and with the gun­shot wounds and ac­ci­dents oc­cur­ring now. Right now, Mon­tego Bay is paral­ysed,” said Hol­ness.

“I have peo­ple with brain tu­mours, sev­eral cere­bral aneurysms, [and] spinal cord com­pres­sion wait­ing for surgery be­cause we can’t get them in an op­er­at­ing room.”

In the mean­time, Hart said ef­forts would be made to fur­ther re­duce the pa­tient load at the CRH by urg­ing per­sons to seek treat­ment for mi­nor com­plaints at their lo­cal com­mu­nity health cen­tres.

“What we are try­ing to do, and what the health min­is­ter is in­tend­ing and is work­ing on, is get­ting the com­mu­nity clin­ics to do a lot more work to stop peo­ple com­ing in to CRH, so we are up­grad­ing all of them right now,” said Hart.

“A lot of peo­ple come in to the hos­pi­tal just be­cause they think they get bet­ter treat­ment there, but if they know they get good treat­ment at the clin­ics, they will go there, and they will not have the wait they have in the hos­pi­tal. All these things do not hap­pen overnight, but we are mak­ing moves.”

PHO­TOS BY JER­MAINE BARN­ABY/FREE­LANCE PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

A mil­i­tary unit in Mon­tego Bay, St James.

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