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Saturday 20 April 2019
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Animal farm

COMPLAINTS about conditions at the Point Fortin Area Hospital reached a new level this week. It was reported that the building has been in the grip of a snake infestation. Staff reported the presence of reptiles wrapped around intravenous therapy (IV) stands in the lunchroom and, ironically, in the human resource department.

Additionally, it emerged that snakes are not the only unwelcome visitors. The hospital’s facilities have been hosting pigeons, flies, and corbeaux – all of whom may have flown straight out of George Orwell’s allegorical masterpiece Animal Farm.

These matters may seem trivial to some. But they are symptomatic of the conditions which patients and healthcare officials face at the nation’s health facilities.

Complaints about the Point Fortin hospital are far from new. Last year, surgeries on the premises were suspended due to malfunctioning lights in the operating theatre. These procedures were diverted to the San Fernando General Hospital, itself already overburdened.

In March, the Point Fortin facility was plunged into darkness because of a power outage. No patients, officials claimed, were placed at risk, but the outage confirmed that the generator on the premises was not working.

In the same month, a teenager died at the hospital in mysterious circumstances after reportedly surviving a suicide attempt. He had been held down by at least six nurses and was bound by the hands, feet, and waist with straps onto a hospital bed. An autopsy was inconclusive as to the cause of death. While no one has accused officials of the hospital of negligence or misfeasance, such possibilities are yet to be conclusively ruled out.

There may be many more problems at Point Fortin that have never made it into the public domain. Despite the implementation of a charter of rights for patients nationwide, as well as an abundance of quality control departments and hotlines, patients are reluctant to bite the hand that feeds them. Not so when it comes to the animals now nesting at the building.

We welcome the intervention of officials from the Emperor Valley Zoo, as well as the launch of an “aggressive ground-maintenance campaign” by the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA). The SWRHA has asked the Point Fortin Borough Corporation and the Ministry of Agriculture’s Forestry Division for assistance.

It should go without saying that a hospital needs to be designed to cater to the environment in which it is located. It must conform to the highest hygienic standards and also be a welcoming environment, not a house of horrors. Hopefully, the plight of staff and patients at Point Fortin will shine a spotlight on the quality of facilities nationally in this regard.

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