The people of this country are lazy, making themselves sick and have created a crisis where the hospitals are packed to capacity, says Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan.
Khan said in a telephone interview that all the hospitals, including the Port of Spain General Hospital, the San Fernando General Hospital, Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, and even the hospital in Arima, are filled and the problem of bed shortage has worsened.
The minister said this crisis has been fuelled by people’s unhealthy lifestyles coupled with an inefficient process at the hospitals where patients are being kept for longer than was necessary.
“I am looking around now and I realise unhealthy lifestyles are taking off even faster. The more I talk about it, the more people are making sure they lead unhealthy lifestyles. I think people have gotten very lazy, so once you have gotten lazy mentally and physically and you continue along that trend the crisis continues,” said Khan.
This problem, he said, has reached epidemic stage, noting that in “affluent” countries such as the United States, the hospital admissions are on the increase because of unhealthy lifestyles.
He noted that admissions to hospitals in Cuba were lower where the people are healthier.
Khan said, in this country, people are making themselves ill by failing to eat properly and not exercising.
“If we have the unhealthy lifestyles kicking off as we do now, then we are going to have hospitals with one bed for every member of the population because they will need it if they continue with the trend they are going and the population do not listen to the message we are sending out - love yourself, eat right, exercise and decrease your sugar and salt intake,” said Khan.
He said most of the admissions in the hospitals were actually “re-admissions”, where week after week the same people return because they do not take their medication properly and continue leading their lives without any change for the better in terms of diet and nutrition.
Khan said this was causing not only pressure on the public health system but a drain on the treasury.
“The fast food industries and other industries are making a tonne of money while the taxpayers are paying for their indulgences,” he said.
Khan expressed disappointment and frustration at the situation, citing instances where patients are being kept at hospitals for months because of an inefficient system whereby they are waiting to have an X-ray or CT scan done.
He said doctors need to ensure that the proper investigations are carried out quickly so that there is more fluidity and patients can be treated and then sent to the clinic for follow up care.
Khan said there was no maximum period as to how long a patient can stay at a hospital but there is the situation where people “overdo it” and hug beds because of the system.
Asked if he has not intervened and given instructions that there be more efficiency and speed in the process, Khan responded, “I have been fast tracking and instructing for two and a half years but nothing is happening.”
He said disciplinary action cannot be taken because all these doctors are given high performance appraisals.
He added that there is a high admission rate on weekends because he understands that doctors do not work on Saturday and Sunday so patients are not attended to until Monday.