Residents of Parlatuvier, L' Anse Fourmi, Castara and Moriah want better medical services available at their health centres, including better health care for senior citizens and a better ambulance service.
At the fourth session of meetings being hosted by the Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development in communities in Tobago, residents of these four villages gathered last Tuesday at the Parlatuvier community centre to voice their concerns about their health care needs to a panel which included Health Secretary Dr Agatha Carrington.
One resident suggested that existing facilities and services needed to be upgraded.
“Before we look at doing more, you need to upgrade what is there already. If you look at the health centres, you can get your pressure check, you may get your sugar checked but if you want to do a pap smear, prostrate check or mammogram, it’s not available. If we are talking about preventative measures, we need to go from the bottom up,” the resident said.
Cassandra Mills of Parlatuvier complained that the home service provided to patients in the area was insufficient. “At what point does the nurse decide whether or not to visit a patient’s home, when that patient cannot come to the health centre? What happens if that nurse blatantly refuses to come see the patients?” she asked.
In response, Secretary Carrington explained:
“The district health visitors would visit the patient first and they would determine whether or not a doctor visit is required. District health visiting doesn’t carry with it an arrangement for a house call, it’s a nurse driven service in primary care. The doctors are at the centre and persons are brought to them.”
She said the District Health Officer was required to visit the home of a patient.
One resident, a former caregiver and supervisor at the Division of Health, recommended more assistance and care for patients who require additional visits and medical care. She also recommended that caregivers who are placed in the communities to assist senior citizens receive proper training.
Carrington said training was in progress to improve the quality of care. “We have had 59 of those District Health Visitors and 36 new ones. They have not been exposed to the training required so they have been in the classroom and are now doing their practical …So the public will see a pool of better trained caregivers to respond to them. We recognise these challenges so we have started giving them the refreshing they need. If there are any others who require the training, they could enter in the next training cycle,” she said.
A villager from Moriah complained that the health centre in the area was “very bad” and that residents were forced to go to the Mason Hall health centre for medical treatment.
“The centre (Moriah) has one person inside and most time there is never a nurse. That is very bad for a big village of Moriah. We need someone to do blood pressure, dress wounds and to do everything else for our village. We need it badly because there are a lot of diabetics and many others who need their sugar and pressure tested. I wish Moriah health care come back to how it used to be,” she said.
Carrington promised that sufficient staff will be placed at the health centre to provide medical services for the villagers of Moriah. She said the Division has already engaged a consultant to work on improving the health care at the Moriah health centre and that $5 million has already been located for priority works on a new health centre.
“We want to ensure the Moriah community is satisfied with the drawing (of the new building) and we have money to start the work but we want villagers of Moriah to monitor what is happening also,” she said. She said the Division will provide basic health care services at the existing health centre during construction of the new building.
Stacy Herbert of Parlatuvier was concerned at what she described as an inefficient ambulance service in the area, noting that many tourists stay on that side of the island.
“We are a rural community and it is extremely important that we have ambulance service in case something happens. We are very far from Scarborough and it would take the ambulance over 45 minutes to get up here and an hour to get back down, by that time the person dead,” she said, recalling a boating incident a few years ago involving a tourist and “the amount of time the ambulance took to get here the person could have died.”
Herbet also asked for better medical assistance for stroke patients, diabetics and senior citizens living in the area. Another resident recommended that a first response health centre be set up to deal with major emergencies until the patient could receive secondary care.
Carrington promised she would look into the ambulance service for the area and noted plans to have a 24-hour medical institution in Roxborough.
At the meeting, Emergency Medical Alert Systems were also delivered to three senior citizens in the area. The Emergency Medical Alert Programme is an initiative under the Division of Finance and Economy to help senior citizens, persons with disabilities and victims of domestic violence – it allows these persons to press a button that sends an instant signal to the 211 emergency call centre, which provides easy and immediate access to emergency service providers such as the Police, Fire Services and Tobago Emergency Medical Services.