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Calling 511

Hospital CEO warns A&E faces a crisis

A week after Barbados TODAY highlighted the acute situation at the Accident & Emergency Department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), in terms of patients having to wait for hours, sometimes days, for medical treatment, the hospital’s chief executive officer Dr Dexter James has admitted that the problem is very “acute”.

In fact, he warned today that it was now at the point of crisis and posed a serious threat to the lives of patients in need of urgent health care.

However, James told Barbados TODAY the situation could easily be remedied if persons who did not have genuine emergencies stayed away from the QEH.

In a bid to ease the pressure on the A&E, James said hospital authorities were currently working on a “fast-track” system for persons in need of “diagnostic investigation” .

But for the moment, he said the A&E Department was overwhelmed with a number of non-emergency patients “flooding” the QEH every day for treatment.

Dexter James

Dexter James

“A&E is now seeing close to 120 to 140 patients a day. This is relentless and has been so for the last two and a half, three months,” said James, adding that the situation was getting worse by the day.

“I think it has reached crisis proportions and really now needs the public to seek care in another environment that is more fitting for the type of care that they require,” he said.

“In other words, if you do not have a life-threatening circumstance, or a serious medical condition that requires an urgent care response, please seek care in either the polyclinics or from a primary care physician,” James added.

“The effect right now is that we get the hit because you have long waiting times in Accident & Emergency. Some persons have said they have been waiting for as long as two days in the emergency room.

“Clearly, these are not emergency-type conditions. These are the patients with non-urgent conditions that don’t need to be at the hospital at all.”

Based on the acuteness of the current situation, the CEO said A&E medical staff had been giving priority to “sicker” patients who are deserving of urgent care.

“They have varying types of medical conditions . . . elevated blood pressure, mainly NCDs [non-communicable diseases], and therefore require more attention and more time to be spent at the Accident & Emergency Department.”

James also expressed deep concern about the “domino effect” on the ability of the Emergency Ambulance Service (EAS).

“If all of your beds in A&E are occupied and the ambulance comes in with a patient who has an urgent medical condition, where would the patient go?” he asked.

“We can’t leave the patient on the ground or in the waiting area, so they would use the ambulance stretcher [gurney] until a bed is freed up. And of course, when more calls come for use          of the Emergency Ambulance Service, the ambulances in A&E cannot leave without a stretcher.”

James stressed that “the ambulance is only as good as the stretcher in it”, but admitted that the QEH had suffered fallout from the increased numbers in the emergency room.

Investigations by Barbados TODAY revealed that while as many as ten calls were made during Tuesday afternoon’s shift, there were only four ambulances available with stretchers.

Today, when a Barbados TODAY team visited the ambulance headquarters in Jemmotts Lane, St Michael, four of the nine QEH ambulances in operation (including one Rapid Response vehicle) were parked up without the required gurneys, while the workers idled around outside with nothing to do. However, private ambulances and the Barbados Defence Force units were pressed into service.

Responding to the reports of a shortage of stretchers, one emergency worker, who asked not to be identified, said: “This crisis has arisen because of the high incidence of the chikungunya virus. If you go to the Accident & Emergency Department you will see patients lying on ambulance stretchers in the corridors,” the worker said.      

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9 Responses to Calling 511

  1. Fay Bedroppinemlikeadime Ann
    Fay Bedroppinemlikeadime Ann October 31, 2014 at 2:43 am

    When Barbadians finally have to pay for health care they would understand the term “Emergency” smh

  2. Francis McClean
    Francis McClean October 31, 2014 at 4:55 am

    A serious problem that cannot be ignored

  3. Linda Freeman
    Linda Freeman October 31, 2014 at 6:33 am

    The A&E Department is not a walk in clinic, the doctors are overworked. I believe that if the assessing nurse assess the patient, and it is not an emergency there is something called fast track that a lot Barbadians forget about over at Sir Winston Scott Polyclinic. Send them over there even if they have to utilise fast track as a 24hour clinic to help alleviate some of the problems at QEH then if found to have a serious emergency an ambulance can then transport that patient from fast track back to QEH for treatment or admission its as simple as one, two, three. Assess them and if found to not have an emergency refer them case closed let them cuss from now to never ending morning and ease the load off the A&E Doctors.

  4. Lynda Bonnett
    Lynda Bonnett October 31, 2014 at 7:26 am

    It is frustrating.i honestly think the heath care providers can do better.sometimes4-5hrs no names called.i spent more than 24hrs there and left without treatment

    • Linda Freeman
      Linda Freeman October 31, 2014 at 10:19 am

      Well I believe that wasn’t an emergency if you were there for twenty four hours because in the interim the polyclinic opened at some point in time

  5. Linda Freeman
    Linda Freeman October 31, 2014 at 7:46 am

    What i am most frustrated about is the pettiness that some people go to the A&E Department for like a belly ache a stump toe barely get up and have a headache down to QEH they go. Take a panadol and see if that helps then after a few hours and it doesn’t settle head to fast track that part of Sir Winston Scott is open until 12 pm I believe. It takes away from the health care that my child has to receive whilst in the asthma bay because the Doctors are then taken up to treating these petty cases am not saying a headache might not be a sign of an aneurysm but you know your body and you definitely should know when something is desperately wrong but not to head to A&E for such frivolous things man come on now bajans the economy can’t take the added burden.

  6. Linda Freeman
    Linda Freeman October 31, 2014 at 9:22 am

    To the relevant authorities after seeing how packed the A&E department is don’t you think that we need at least 2 fast-track clinics 24 hours to help eliviate the “stress” on the hospital….seems that the powers that be not listening to the man on the street
    find one in the north to help with those parishes and one in the south to help with those parishes and even help the load off Sir Winston Scott…

  7. Greitcha Smith
    Greitcha Smith October 31, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Cannot be an emergency if they are waiting days stupse

  8. Overtaxed Bajan October 31, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    There is an easy solution. A $50 charge for admittance via A&E. Anyone who really needs it would not have a problem with paying $50 and those who can wait to go to the Polyclinic will do so to avoid having to fork out $50. By the way I am not saying that a person should have to pay $50 before getting treatment. No A&E is for emergency cases so they should get the treatment immediately. The $50 would be due but it can be collected afterwards. $10 per week if need be.


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