THE ambulance system in Tobago is being abused. Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) chairman Ingrid Melville made this disclosure to members of the Local Authorities, Service Commissions and Statutory Authorities Joint Select Committee (JSC) yesterday.
At a public hearing at Tower D of the Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre yesterday. Melville said sometimes people went to the Scarborough General Hospital’s accident and emergency (A/E) department, seeking non-emergency medical treatment.
JSC members expressed surprise when Melville went on, “They would drive themselves back home and call an ambulance.”
She added, “Then the ambulance picks them up because now they know their care would be expedited.
“So there is a level of abuse of the system, in that these clearly were not accident and emergency cases, but they are seeking medical attention at A&E.”
Senate vice-president Nigel De Freitas said, “The individual has no deterrent for abusing the system. You have to treat with the abuse of the system, because you have a limited number of ambulances.”
De Freitas said there could be a scenario when someone was having a heart attack, “but because another person is abusing the system,” the heart-attack victim would be denied quality medical care.
She said through ongoing public education, the TRHA was trying to make people aware that “this sort of practice is negative.”
Melville said people seeking treatment for non-emergencies were advised to go to health centres in Canaan, Roxborough or Scarborough. She also said people seeking treatment at Scarborough General Hospital were subject to a triage system which ensured they got the right type of medical care when they arrived at the hospital.
Melville also said people requested ambulance services from the TRHA for private or cultural events, and that service was free but the TRHA might revisit that policy.
JSC chairman Dr Varma Deyalsingh said Trinidad should have an ambulette service similar to Tobago. An ambulette is a specially equipped van for transporting disabled or convalescent passengers in non-emergency circumstances. He said ambulette services would be important for patients who were unable to get to a medical facility on their own.
Other members of the JSC are Diego Martin MP Daryl Smith, Tunapuna MP Esmond Forde, Couva North MP Ramona Ramdial and Opposition senator Khadijah Ameen.