A consultant gerontologist wants to see a geriatric medical team at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Consultant Geriatrician the Ministry of Health, Dr. Ambrose Ramsay also believes there is a need to train average persons in the care of the elderly, and create a regional training programme, a sub-acute care unit and dementia units to help with the island’s ageing population.
The consultant told health professionals and members of organisations that deal with the elderly at Savannah Hotel: “We have not been able to meet the demand for long-term care placement, beds in the Geriatric Hospital Alternative Care of the Elderly Programme and this is evident by the fact that we have an average referrals of 256. Our admissions have not been that high.”
Speaking to the challenges, he noted that dementia was a growing concern and while there were no national statistics, the number of referrals and the numbers at Geriatric and district hospitals were growing.
In 2008, 53 per cent of residents at the Geriatric Hospital and 32 per cent of admissions over the past four years had some form of dementia.
“Persons with dementia require close supervision and special environments that promote safety. Community services in existence are not able to meet the need and there is the need to train not only health care workers but persons in the general population in care of the elderly.”
In relation to training, he said there were two doctors who had been trained through the Geriatric Hospital, but had gone on to further their education elsewhere, adding that he believed there was a need to find ways of keeping such professionals here with the ageing population in the island.
“There is also a need to develop a training programme within the region to help us address the training needs for persons who work with the elderly. We also have been looking at increasing the medical, nursing and rehabilitation staff within the long-term care facilities, and we have been looking at including rehabilitation services at current locations and we also need to include staff in training so that they become more sensitive in working with the elderly.
“We have for some time now been looking at a sub-acute care unit at the Geriatric Hospital. This unit would target those persons [who take longer to get well] in healing, as well as maintaining their functionality and increasing the likelihood of discharge to home rather than another alternative care facility.
“We are also looking at developing dementia units within the district hospitals. We have been looking at it in the Geriatric Hospital itself, but with dementia present in all the district hospitals, we need to look at it in the others as well,” said Dr. Ramsay.
He also suggested an increase in the number of geriatric clinics and also wanted to see a geriatric medical team in place at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
“We need to again, with an increase in staff, be able to increase the number of geriatric community clinics where we can work with the complicated elderly in the community, with the aim of keeping them out of the long-term care facilities.
“My own take is that we need to encourage the establishment of a geriatric medical team within the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.” (LB)