‘TREATED LIKE AN­I­MALS’

Ja­maicans de­cry health care work­ers in new sur­vey

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Anas­ta­sia Cun­ning­ham News Co­or­di­na­tor

FED UP with the poor treat­ment ex­pe­ri­enced at pub­lic hos­pi­tals, Ja­maicans con­tinue to give the coun­try’s pub­lic health-care sys­tem a fail­ing grade, re­vealed a re­cently con­ducted sur­vey of the health sec­tor.

Health work­ers’ rude at­ti­tude and lack of care and com­pas­sion, espe­cially for the poor, ter­ri­ble ser­vice and treat­ment, and the ex­tremely long wait times to get through were the main things that irked per­sons who sought med­i­cal at­ten­tion in the pub­lic sec­tor.

In The Gleaner-com­mis­sioned study con­ducted by Johnson Sur­vey Re­search Ltd, 44 per cent of the par­tic­i­pants ranked the health-care sys­tem as ‘not so good’, com­pared to the minis­cule four per cent who rated it as ‘one of the best’ in re­sponse to be­ing asked how they would rate the health-care sys­tem in Ja­maica.

Asked why they felt that way, 39 per cent said the wait time was too long and the ser­vice too slow;

and 22 per cent said health-care work­ers didn’t care, were rude, and of­fered poor ser­vice. In fact, 20 per cent of the re­spon­dents went as far as to say health-care work­ers “treat you like an­i­mals”.

Polling 1,200 men and women be­tween ages 18 and 65 dur­ing the month of Septem­ber, the sur­vey sought to gauge Ja­maicans’ view of the health-care sys­tem and the im­prove­ments needed.

Of the 75 per cent who be­lieve Ja­maicans do not have ac­cess to good-qual­ity health care in the coun­try, 57 per cent said the poor in the coun­try were not cared for, hence one needed money in or­der to get proper health care.

Ann-Marie An­der­son, who took her mother to the Kingston Pub­lic Hos­pi­tal (KPH) a few months ago af­ter she col­lapsed, is among the many Ja­maicans who are com­plain­ing about the qual­ity of care meted out at pub­lic hos­pi­tals.

“We don’t re­ally have any money, so when she fell down in the kitchen, wi rush her to pub­lic. Mi nah lie. Mi wish, mi wish mi had money. Is re­ally the first I go to the emer­gency there, and be­cause the nurse look at her and say she wasn’t that se­ri­ous, you know how long wi sit down there wait­ing be­fore wi see a doc­tor?” she shared with The Gleaner.

She said she was at pains to leave her mother there, but af­ter wait­ing sev­eral hours, she had no choice but to leave her in the wait­ing area and go to their Rich­mond Park, St Andrew, home for cloth­ing and other items. When she got back to KPH, her mother was still wait­ing.

“We prac­ti­cally spend the whole day be­fore any­body pay her any mind and mi have to keep ask­ing them. You should hear how them talk to mi till them all start ig­nore mi. One nurse make mi know them have real emer­gency so I must stop bother them.”

She con­tin­ued: “Mek mi tell you some­thing, you dead in this coun­try if you get sick and don’t have money.”

Pub­lic-health nurse Karen McKen­zie ad­mit­ted that her col­leagues could some­times get “testy” with pa­tients but pointed out that it was at most times out of frus­tra­tion.

Work­ing in the pub­lic-health sec­tor for close to 17 years, in­clud­ing at three of the is­land’s hos­pi­tals, the Chris­tian said it was of­ten “the grace of God that keeps me from ex­plod­ing some­times”.

STAFF UN­DER PRES­SURE

“It is not per­fect. We don’t have enough staff. We don’t have the things we need. We have to work two shifts some­times, all three if the per­son to come re­lieve you don’t come, and you have to put up with a lot of things from the pa­tients. I know they say nurses rude to them, but you should hear some of the things that come out of them mouth. You should hear how them threaten us all the time,” she told The Gleaner.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right, but re­spect goes both ways. Both the nurses and the pa­tients and the peo­ple who come with them have to do bet­ter in how them deal with one an­other.”

McKen­zie is call­ing for the au­thor­i­ties to pro­vide the nec­es­sary re­sources to help ease the bur­den on the health work­ers. She also echoed the cry that if nurses were paid bet­ter wages, there would be enough to have an eq­ui­table nurse-to-pa­tients ra­tio.

Stake­hold­ers have long been call­ing for the Gov­ern­ment to ad­e­quately fund the health sec­tor in or­der for it to be prop­erly re­sourced.

Ja­maica spends on av­er­age five per cent of the gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP) on the health sec­tor, half of what is rec­om­mended by in­ter­na­tional au­thor­i­ties.

The health-care sur­vey was spon­sored by the National Health Fund and the Min­istry of Health.

PHOTO BY CARL GILCHRIST

Erica Webb and her daugh­ter, Shamora (head in lap), said they waited over nine hours for treat­ment at the St Ann’s Bay Re­gional Hos­pi­tal.

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