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Standard care

by Davidson Bowen

Despite strict standards regulating from the way garbage is disposed of to how state-of-the-art machines should be maintained, there still seems to be a crack threatening local health care system.

This was the view of some experts following the allegation of a Barbadian living in the Cayman Islands, who related a near-death experience while hooked up to a dialysis machine at a private sector health provider during a power outage.

George Jones, former band leader and keyboard player with popular group Square One, posted his heart-wrenching account on Facebook, graphically painting a picture of his brush with death after the electricity went out and the manual pump on the dialysis machine failed.

Minister of Health Donville Inniss, in a telephone interview yesterday, said there were strict standards for all health care providers which had to be followed.

“There are standards for doctors and nurses, they must be registered. We also have standards for facilities. There are always consequences and we must operate at the highest level,” he said, adding that his heart went out to Jones, stating his experience was very unfortunate.

Barbados TODAY has since been informed that two of the three private dialysis providers on the island do not have backup generators for the critical service they provide. The three clinics are SILS Dialysis Barbados, Caribbean Dialysis Barbados Inc. Holiday Dialysis Center and The Dialysis Clinic.

SILS Dialysis Barbados is the largest of the three facilities and is owned by Barbadian Dr Kirt Lambert who bought Island Dialysis and renamed the facility. He is currently based in Zurich, Switzerland and Cape Town, South Africa.

Medical Office Manager with that facility, Jules Balber, stressed that as the biggest private facility on the island, and the only one holding a contract with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, a backup generator was a necessity.

“Along with private patients, many of whom are visitors, we also take 24 patients from the QEH. We are in a brand new facility and we seek to stick to the highest standards recommended by the Ministry of Health.

“The ministry has some very high standards and we are inspected annually. From our policies to our procedures are inspected. I would have to say the inspection is very thorough and you are not aware when they will turn up, but they do and they go through everything,” she said.

Balber also pointed out that there was a power outage in their area about two weeks ago but, because they have a backup generator, that did not present a problem for them.

“Dialysis is a very serious procedure. We have a state-of-the-art water treatment facility which was installed by an overseas company and we also have a generator which can run our entire facility in the event of a power outage.

“I remember that day when the electricity was off, seeing other businesses in the area with their doors wide open, but in about 20 seconds we were switched over to the generator and settled back into a routine,” Balber assured.

When the other dialysis provider in the Belleville area was contacted, Professor George Nickolson who runs the facility said the name George Jones sounded like a patient of his.

“I can’t discuss anything with you over the phone. Why would you want to know about standards? I am not in Barbados at the time. Actually I am in Trinidad with a patient; I must go, you have a good day,” he said before ending the conversation.

Efforts to reach The Dialysis Clinic were futile, but it was understood that is a small facility with about four machines and caters mainly to tourists.

The vice-president of one of the companies currently providing Barbados and other countries in the region with medical equipment, who requested anonymity, said it was in the interest of health care providers to be proactive in the maintenance of these devices.

“That situation is an unfortunate one that should have never happened. Dialysis machines are very precise machines and need to be calibrated and kept in good working order, as all medical equipment should be, to avoid unwanted breakdown,” he said.

Balber, who is also a qualified nurse, added panic should never be a part on any medical service and expressed shock that the manual pump was also not working on the machine to which Jones was hooked up.

“That is not just a power outage, that is a total failure of the machine. Even if you don’t have a generator, if the electricity goes off then the machine is equipped with that manual crank and the blood can be returned to the patient in about three minutes or so. That is supposed to be a safety feature in the event there is an emergency,” she added.

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