Keith McDonald, CEO of the South-West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) is denying claims that patients pose a security risk to staff on the Psychiatric Ward (Ward One) of San Fernando General Hospital.
Speaking with Newsday yesterday, he also denied claims of deplorable conditions and staff-shortages on the ward, saying, “Those are inaccuracies.”
He was responding to claims made in an article published in yesterday’s Sunday Newsday. Staff on the ward cited an incident last Friday, in which a male patient managed to untie himself from the bed he was strapped into and tried to leave the ward.
The patient cuffed a male colleague and broke his glasses during a scuffle then slammed a female nurse to the floor when she intervened. That patient was transferred on Saturday morning to St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital, St Ann’s for further evaluation.
The article also quoted a nurse who said that this past Saturday morning, a female patient damaged the toilet facilities at the ward and that approximately 15 security officers were needed “just to put her in a room” where she remained as of press time on Saturday.
That same nurse told Newsday, “Over the past few years, staff have been beaten and verbally abused by patients who do anything you can possibly think of. It has to stop because our lives are at risk.”
McDonald addressed these concerns during an interview with Newsday on the sidelines of a function celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the enrollment of nurses in the first edition of the Basic Comprehensive Nursing Programme (BCNP1), at Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain.
“Yes, there was an incident where one of our patients was attempting to leave Ward One. He was restrained but in the process he retaliated and that was the situation. He was transferred to St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital and all is normal now. There was no adverse event that came out of that.”
McDonald said in addition to security being “minutes away” from the ward – “so we were able to react very quickly – we have not had an incident like that for a while.”
Reminding that Ward One deals with people with mental health issues and that “incidents like this would happen from time to time,” McDonald was however keen to point out that this is not a regular incident.”
He also denied that a female patient had damaged the toilet facilities, telling Newsday, “There is no accuracy to that statement. That did not take place.”
Describing the hospital as “very old”, McDonald said “there’s room for improvement.” As such he and hospital management have been meeting with the “numerous staff bodies and we are addressing a number of issues” at the hospital. Chief among them is improving the parking facility and fixing a section of the hospital’s roof.
Asked specifically about conditions on Ward One, McDonald told Newsday, “That ward is under review because we may move that ward in its totality. Over the years, where we were dealing with a smaller population, we are now dealing with a much larger population – in-house, out-patients.”
McDonald said the SWRHA is not considering relocating Ward One. Rather, it is “looking at another facility that may be larger. That’s all I can say for now.”
Pressed if this would mean relocation or expansion, McDonald said, “We are weighing the options of what we will do with the facility regarding Ward One.”