By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
A CANADIAN visitor is claiming that the bad patient experience and inadequacies at the Rand Memorial Hospital in Freeport has changed her perception about retiring to Grand Bahama.
The woman, who spoke to The Tribune on the condition of anonymity, has been visiting the island for the past 20 years and was hospitalised on February 1 due to a severe allergic reaction after being bitten by fire ants.
It was her first time at the local public hospital. She claimed that the doctors and nurses were unprofessional and displayed an uncaring attitude towards her and other patients; that the Emergency Room (ER) and restroom facilities were in filthy condition; and that she was billed for medical services that had not been administered.
Hospital administrator Sharon Williams said yesterday that the hospital is looking into the alleged claims. “As tourist ambassadors and healthcare providers, such complaints are of grave concern to management. The entire patient experience as noted is under full and active review, as management takes seriously our responsibility to the patient, whom we are privileged to serve,” she said.
The Canadian was told by a doctor that her condition was life-threatening and that she would have died had she not got to the hospital in time. Though she is grateful to the doctor who saved her life, she said that her experience in hospital was “terrible”.
She first went to a local clinic but was told to go to the hospital instead. “I was in and out of unconsciousness and I could not swallow any more, or open my eyes. I was in really bad shape. I did not think I would make it,” she said.
When she arrived at the hospital, she said she had trouble breathing, and her face, tongue and throat were severely swollen. She claims that she sat in a wheelchair for four hours in the Trauma Unit, waiting to be seen by a doctor because there was no bed available in the ER.
The visitor said that, around 6pm, she was taken to a bed in the Emergency Room. She was detained in hospital until 10.30pm.
“There was one lady doctor and a nurse on their cellular phones laughing and texting when patients are in the back crying for help, and they tell them to wait and be patient. I thought that was terrible,” she said.
“There was a woman in a bed beside me who had two strokes and she was hooked up to the machine, and the doctor is there listening to music with the headset on their ears, and I thought if the machine beeps they are not going to hear it.”
The Canadian visitor said the stroke patient was left unattended with a pressure cuff on her arm. “The cuff around her arm was getting bigger and bigger and the machine was not stopping. When I went to tell the nurse that something is wrong, they were on their cell phones,” she claimed.
The woman, a retired police officer and detective who is trained in CPR and First Aid, said that cellular phone use is not allowed in hospital emergency rooms. She also claimed that doctors had difficulty drawing blood and inserting IV lines in patients. “They missed my vein three or four times,” she said.
She was also very disturbed by the lack of compassion and care for patients. “I ended up taking care of the woman beside me. She was crying and wanted to know if her sister was there, and when I told the nurse she was worried about that, the nurse told me that is not their priority,” she claimed. “They did not care … that the woman had been there for 21 hours and not seen anybody.”
The Canadian patient was also concerned about the cleanliness of the ER. “The bars of the beds were stained with dry blood and I saw needles on the floor and blood on cloths in the Emergency Room. I felt like I was in a hospital in World War II – it was filthy. What I saw … I think someone has to know what is happening,” she said.
The visitor also complained that the cost of care was very high. “I had to pay $250 before they would see me, and then after being treated I was told that I owed an additional $200,” she said. The woman said that the hospital refused to take her travel insurance and requested that she pay cash. She claimed that she was charged for oxygen when she hadn’t received any at the hospital, and that she was subjected to a blood sugar test even though she told the nurse she was not a diabetic.
Although the visitor had travel insurance, she claimed that the hospital would not accept it. “It is a well known insurance company and they want me to pay cash. What if I did not have the money. It was a terrible experience,” she said.
In a statement, administrator Williams said: “We are to take into that some measures for patient monitoring in a busy Accident & Emergency Department may be expected protocol for patient care of which a casual observer may not be aware. However, there is zero tolerance for unprofessionalism and uncaring attitudes.
“Where indicated the requisite disciplinary action is applied and we put in action corrective measures, so as to avoid any recurrence,” she added.
Ms Williams said the hospital welcomes all constructive comments that their internal and external customers may have regarding their services.