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Close call

by Davidson Bowen

Minister of Health Donville Inniss is calling on Barbadians to stop bashing the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and also to live lives that will prevent them contracting chronic non-communicable diseases.

His comments came after a heated discussion and comments making the rounds on social media network Facebook about a dialysis patient who came face to face with death after a power outage during his dialysis.

The patient, George Jones, former band leader and keyboard player with Square One is identified as having made the post: “As recent as last week Thursday, while hooked up to a dialysis machine in Barbados, the electricity went off, there was no backup generator and the manual pump would not work.

“I sat there watching my blood sitting motionless in tubes outside my body and precious time running out. With two minutes to spare before the situation became critical and with the look of panic etched on the nurse’s face, I sent my wife and kids a bb message saying ‘I love U’…. A few seconds later the power came back on.

“I knew of the magnitude of the situation but I did not panic because my mind and soul were at ease and if that was to have been my final moment this side of the universe…, I was prepared to meet my God. I don’t take for granted or even trivialise it, but the almighty continues to reveal that my work on earth is not yet complete and these struggles are not mine alone.”

However, the health minister stressed that there is nothing in the letter posted that suggest that the Queen Elizabeth Hospital is the facility at fault.

“I saw the comments on Facebook and let me say that I empathise with Mr Jones, but from all information received there are no reports that there was any power outage at the QEH in recent times and even if there was the generators would have kicked in in a matter of seconds and the situation described would have been averted. Also, there is no record that he has been a patient at the QEH,” the minister asserted.

Inniss added that he did speak to Jones personally before he came to Barbados and during that conversation he made it clear that as a Barbadian, though resident overseas, he was entitled to access free health care services.

Quality and quantity

“That was made abundantly clear. The question was about the range of quality and quantity of care to be received and I indicated that would have to be determined by a doctor. I am the minister of health, not a doctor. I do not make it my business to medal in the affairs of doctors and nurses. My job is to set policy and provide support and you would appreciate that people see the financial aspect as the greater part of that support,” Inniss said.

He also added that there were many Barbadians living overseas who were desirous of returning to Barbados but were concerned about the level of health care.

“We have some elderly Barbadian and some not-so-old Barbadians living in the US, who, having lived from pay-day to pay day, recognise full well that if you catch the common cold it can make you go broke.

“Another thing is the services they would have to pay for in the US they want to come here and not just access but access for free. A whole slew of specialist and have forgetting that these things come at a cost,” he said.

Inniss stressed that there were several Barbadians currently dialysing themselves and doing so at a reduced cost and with an improved quality of life.

“There are alternatives we in the Ministry of Health are currently exploring and that is one. Where the doctor determine which individuals can manage their self care and they do so at about 40 per cent less of the cost as coming to the hospital and your quality of life is considerably greater. You can practically lead an almost normal life by doing your own dialysis when you get home or when you are sleeping,” Inniss said.

He added that while organ transplant was another option, one which was successfully done at the QEH just a few months ago, part of the mandate of his ministry was to get Barbadians to appreciate that prevention is always better than cure. He pointed out that it is currently costing Government $5,000 weekly per patient at the hospital.

“We are currently looking at organ-donor legislation and what this will seek to do is make organ transplants more accessible and also the process more transparent. Currently we are tackling this thing from two ends – the treatment and curative aspect and the preventive end which we need people to adopt. But then there is also the expectation we need to clarify where Barbadians believe that because they pay taxes they are entitled to certain things,” said the minister.

“George’s story is heart-wrenching but we need to emphasise preventive lifestyles because we cannot provide dialysis for everybody requesting it and on the present course that number will continue to increase,” Inniss stressed.

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