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The anatomy of poor health care

As ineptitude continues to plague our health care system, innocent lives were snuffed out in this country's three major health institutions over the last four months. Collectively, these hospitals registered what appear to be the avoidable deaths of two healthy, young women and three unborn babies in four separate incidents.

The Government has already accepted the responsibility in one of these cases where a pregnant woman and her unborn son died after she choked on her own vomit at the Port of Spain General Hospital (POSGH). And as if lessons weren't learned, only four months later a mother bled to death after giving birth via Caesarean section.

The resultant suspensions of five doctors, five nurses and the firing of the SWRHA CEO for failing to promptly obey instructions to serve the suspensions have sparked fury in some quarters of society and the general public. People are wondering whether the Health Ministry is treating the symptoms of an archaic problem and not the cause.

The PSA's Watson Duke lays the blame squarely on the Government for continuing to do seemingly nothing about the perpetual short-staff situation across the medical fraternity. He admonishes the Health Ministry for letting the long hours that doctors and nurses must work go unabated. And in this regard he is right, since a lack of adequate rest/sleep inevitably leads to poor health, grumpy attitudes, tantrums, blunders, complacency, neglect and basically substandard service. The shortage of doctors and nurses has been a challenge for T&T for far too long and it is time for the current administration to properly assess the issue and do whatever it takes to spawn and implement an effective solution. Remuneration and working conditions are clearly key aspects to be considered.

Still, many members of the medical fraternity must share with the Government, the responsibility for the mess we call a public health care system. Why is it that the average citizen will choose a private nursing home over a public hospital, once he/she can afford it?

Anyone will tell you it is because the treatment and the caring are better when you must fork out thousands of dollars merely for admission, let alone tests and/or surgery. There is an undeniable perception that the same doctor who looks at you with indifference at the POSGH will smile with you in a nursing home. So we get the impression that more will be done to cure or save us at these private hospitals.

Removing the clouds of naivety, we see it is often the improved remuneration package that drives the smiles and healthy work attitude that is sorely lacking at the public hospitals/health centres.

What do you think will happen if public hospitals became adequately staffed, had sufficient beds and the wait time for admittance decreased from 15 hours to one hour?

What will be the case if all the necessary equipment was functional and doctors and nurses were all polite and gave of their best?

Some would fear a drastic decrease in private hospitals/nursing homes. Put another way, certain people of influence or businessmen may not be happy over the prospect of improved public health care.

But since the Government has disclosed no immediate plans to build new hospitals that will be well staffed and equipped, private hospital stakeholders need not worry now, as patients are never in short supply.

While the Government must be serious about eradicating the many ills of health care, doctors must keep the faith and deliver the best treatment they can regardless of where their patients are hospitalised.

Dexter Rigsby

Mt Lambert

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