THERE is insufficient space for patients needing dialysis at the Scarborough General Hospital. Secretary for the Division for Health, Wellness and Family Development Agatha Carrington said although there has been an expansion, the only way more space will become available is if patients die. Carrington made the remark at a public health consultation meeting at the Bethel community centre recently.
She said, “Hundreds of patients are registered in the clinics, and it is because we haven’t managed the primary care side of it, that’s why we are where we have more persons than the number of spaces. We have tried to expand; even when you meet the criteria there is no space, except somebody dies. Not only do we have the (excessive) numbers but we have very ill patients.”
There are currently 53 available spots and three shifts operating for patients who are critical.
Owing to the limited space at the hospital, some patients are advised to undergo home dialysis treatment as a second option, but have refused.
“There is an arrangement for them to have their peritoneal dialysis done; you are shown how to do it, hooked up on a little machine. They still want to come to the centre where there is no room. I guess the need for the standard or the sterility required for the care, persons don’t think they can do it,” Carrington lamented.
The Secretary of Health said despite these issues, the Division's focus is to monitor lifestyle diseases and strengthen its response and treatment quality. Primary and secondary care quality is another focus, she said, while also pushing for improvement in infrastructure to make Tobago the preferred destination for health care delivery.
“We want to make our services much more client centred, our journey out to various communities is to allow for the communities to participate in the planning process, to tell us what are the things we have been doing wrong and the way you believe it should be done for your benefit,” she added.
During the consultation, residents complained of the poor customer service in the health centres and the waiting time at the Scarborough General Hospital.
Agatha said the Division is monitoring the service delivery time with hopes to improve waiting time and assessment of patients.
“The matter of communication continues to challenge us, where I had to walk the floor often times to deal with that. We are fixing that and we are determined to ensure the public’s visit will not be a bad experience. We understand that we must improve communication and the attitude of our staff and we are working on that,” she said.
Shomari Hector, Bethel/Mt Irvine area representative, called on the Division and the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) to provide more incentives to encourage men to become serious about their health status.
Agatha agreed the behaviour of men is a challenge but the Division is working on a blue room initiative for all men on the island. “We recognised that there is no space for men to talk and treat with men's health issues and we want to give them that opportunity,” she said.
Hector also recommended that the Tobago health’s sector focus on restoring the public's confidence in the island’s health system.
Chairman of the TRHA Ingrid Melville said the authority has began encouraging older doctors to mentor interns, to help ensure the standard of care remains at a high level. She said once the health care service remains at a high standard, the public's confidence will also be high.