By SANCHESKA DORSETT
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE ACCIDENT and Emergency Department at the Princess Margaret Hospital experienced a series of challenges over the weekend, forcing some patients to be relocated to the South Beach Clinic and others to wait for more than 24 hours in some cases, according to Heath Minister Dr Duane Sands who described the public hospital as the Bahamas Power and Light of healthcare.
In an interview with The Tribune, Dr Sands said flooding from a broken pipe took the CAT scan and ultrasound machines out of commission causing significant delays to those needing diagnostics. In addition, he said there were no available beds on the female medical ward and unfortunately some patients had to sleep in cots in the hallways because “there was just no room.”
Dr Sands the “perfect storm” was caused by years of “dumb and inappropriate decisions” and he is “honestly not sure” when a solution to the “mess” will be found.
He said even with seven doctors and 14 nurses on duty over the weekend, there was “just no way” everyone could have been seen in a timely manner, when the “clinical space is filled to the brim.”
“There was a flood from a broken pipe that immersed the electrical wiring to the CAT scanner and the ultrasound equipment,” Dr Sands said.
“We had a huge number of people who required scanning, more than a dozen, and despite having arranged for dedicated transportation by ambulance to Grosvenor and Doctors Hospital and having established relationships with those facilities, you can imagine the added delay. You combine that with no female beds in the hospital and you have a logistical nightmare,” Dr Sands said.
“As a routine, many people have confidence in PMH and they come there for most of their care. This has been a problem for years and the community clinics unfortunately are not open in order to decompress PMH adequately. So given this peculiar perfect storm, we decided to open up the South Beach Clinic on Saturday and Sunday as we get our diagnostics capacity back on stream. We have 60 beds out of commission and a number of other challenges to (providing) care. I do not know what is going to happen to the CAT scanner, we believe it will be able to be brought back into service but flood immersion of the electrical system of a sensitive piece of equipment is not a minor problem and it’s not only the CAT scanner, it’s also the ultrasound and so if you add this challenge now to a system which is already under siege, you get an understanding of why and how long the public is inconvenienced.”
Dr Sand said opening all the government clinics over the weekend was not an option because the government “simply does not have the millions it will take when we already owe millions.”
“Again, we have more than 60 beds taken out of circulation and we have bills that have not been paid. Vendors have stopped supplying the hospital with medication and some are threatening to withdraw certain services. That is the reality and solving that reality isn’t something that you just flip a switch,” he said.
“People ask why we don’t just open all the clinics. Well how are you going to pay the staff when you owe millions of dollars to the staff already? This place is the BPL of healthcare, this is the continuous power outage of healthcare. What you are dealing with is a legacy of dumb decisions and inappropriate decisions that have led to this mess. What we have to do now is to fix it, but saying you will fix it, won’t fix it.”
Dr Sands is encouraging persons who do not have a “bonafide emergency” to visit the government clinics before going to Accident and Emergency.
“We are trying our best and we will work through this in trying to sort out the healthcare needs of the public. I know some people have a hard time knowing whether or not their problem is an emergency but notwithstanding that, there are some problems that are clearly not, we are just asking people not to game the system.”
In May, Dr Sands said the former Christie administration left more than $25m in unpaid bills for medical equipment, rent, drugs and salaries at the Ministry of Health and the Public Hospitals Authority.
Dr Sands also claimed that despite a plea from the managing director of the PHA for just under a million dollars to repair the major hospitals in the healthcare system, the money was never made available, resulting in 67 crucial beds “being taken out of commission.”