QEH CEO slams doctors for decision to treat emergency cases only
Warning that the unavailability of essential medical supplies at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) had reached a crisis of the highest order, doctors at the state-run health care facility have decided to handle emergency cases only.
And they have called on Government to not only state unequivocally how it plans to fund the QEH in the short, medium and long term, but also to “explain the measures they will take to restore the broken supply chain”.
They took that stance today, following an emergency meeting of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) and the Junior Doctors Association (JDA) to discuss concerns about supplies and the administration of the hospital.
But the hospital’s chief executive officer Dr Dexter James called their actions “reckless” and “irresponsible”.
“We have discovered that not only is there a problem with the supply chain – the result of debt owed to suppliers who have closed their accounts with the QEH – but also with the governance of supplies and accountability for ordering,” BAMP’s public relations officer Dr Lynda Williams told Barbados TODAY following the talks in the hospital auditorium.
“Our great concern for patient safety has led us to take a decision that weighs heavily upon us because we understand the seriousness of its nature. From today, BAMP and the JDA have instructed our members to deal with only emergency cases.”
Williams said the supply shortage had reached such a critical level that doctors had to save the limited supplies to treat the most ill patients.
“In the past few months, we have seen a recurrence of shortages of basic supplies such as sterile catheters, alcohol, sterile gloves, IV fluids, sutures, some IV antibiotics, blood tubes, hand towels, soap, inexpensive medications such as lorazepan, lasix, heparin, soluble insulin and many more common drugs used to deliver care to pregnant women, children and the elderly,” she pointed out.
The BAMP PRO said the doctors were demanding an urgent change in the governance of the QEH because the medical practitioners “had lost confidence in the manner in which the hospital was being managed”.
When asked whether they were calling for the QEH management to go, she was quick to respond that it was “the system of governance” and not necessarily any individual or individuals they wanted changed.
The physicians urged the Freundel Stuart administration to ensure good governance and accountability for the management of the provision of supplies at the QEH.
“We suggested that a modern inventory system that monitors the usage of supplies from month to month be established immediately. We also suggest that doctors have a say in the supplies that are needed and ordered and can identify who is accountable if supplies are not available,” the BAMP spokesperson said.
BAMP and the JDA said they were willing to continue to meet with all stakeholders and to consult wherever and whenever they were asked, but insisted that “we cannot continue in the present circumstances with business as usual”.
“The health of the nation is at risk,” Williams declared.
The medical practitioners also recalled that in March this year, they warned that a short-term injection of cash to pay the hospital’s suppliers who were owed a large debt, could not be a viable solution to a recurring problem.
“Subsequent to this, BAMP met with the Minister of Health John Boyce as well as the CEO of the QEH Dr Dexter James and other Ministry of Health officials to try to chart a way forward for a long-term solution, but to date no such solution has been stated to the public,” Williams said.
Responding to the doctors’ decision to handle only emergency cases, the QEH CEO said supplies were replenished today.
He told Barbados TODAY he was disappointed by their actions since he had given an indication that the situation would have been resolved.
“I requested of the Head of the Department of Surgery to please hold your hand until I was able to have a conversation with you [because] we were addressing the situation to be solved the following day. As of today, all the items that they have said were on stock-outs, they were all in the hospital and we will continue to improve on our supplies as funds come our way,” James said, adding that there were now supplies to last at least a month and a half.
The hospital administrator also sought to clarify the doctors’ claim that suppliers had cut off the QEH.
Admitting that large sums of money were owed to suppliers, James said: “Instead of giving us credit, we have to buy our items in cash. While the accounts are on hold, they are on hold for providing credit, but they are not on hold for cash. In other words, our credit lines with some of these major suppliers are no longer available to us.”
“So we had to have cheques prepared, have them signed, take them to the suppliers and then get the goods to the hospital.”
James explained that the problem was the non-payment of overdue balances based on the credit terms vendors had given to the QEH.
“That is the challenge we have. We have balances outstanding in excess of 120 days in some cases,” he said.
He disclosed that as recently as Wednesday, QEH management had a meeting with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler and a number of large creditors and they had been able to come to an agreement on the way forward.
“So I am convinced and satisfied that a resolution to the balance due to these large and small suppliers is on the way, and that is why I am saying it was really reckless that, in my view, the Junior Doctors Association, rather than come to management and discuss the issues so we can apprise them of the steps that we are taking, they run to BAMP and BAMP has now moved to a next level.”
“I find them very irresponsible. BAMP and the Junior Doctors Association need to sit with management and let us work out the problems that we have at the hospital,” James insisted.