HEALTH Minister Dr Duane Sands yesterday denied machines were out of service in the Dialysis Unit at the Princess Margaret Hospital but admitted the current system of treatment is “challenged and extremely expensive.”
In an interview with The Tribune, Dr Sands said the demand on the public health system “exceeds its ability to respond effectively.”
He said the situation has been made worse by legacy debt, lack of beds and the inability to retain qualified nurses.
There are currently 144 people on dialysis at PMH, according to Dr Sands who said each patient costs the hospital $50,000 to $80,000 annually.
On Sunday, after losing their matriarch to kidney failure, distraught loved ones complained about the “substandard” dialysis services at Princess Margaret Hospital.
In an interview with The Tribune, a family member, who wished to remain anonymous, described in detail the “horrors” his relative experienced at the Princess Margaret because of the “lack of beds, lack of porters and lack of medicine.”
Yesterday, Dr Sands noted another challenge with dialysis is the country’s “liberal approach” to the treatment.
“We do not restrict dialysis like some other countries,” he said, “and the level of kidney failure in the Bahamas is outrageous. We are very open, we have a very open approach. We do not judge patients according to age or sickness, which means that given the limited resources we have it is a struggle.
He said: “That is the reality. There is no point pretending that this isn’t happening. We have simply not invested adequately in order to deal with these issues. The machines are up to date but they are working quite a bit.
“We don’t like to acknowledge the challenges that exist and we also refuse to acknowledge these things won’t be fixed overnight, even though we are going to fix them.
“People won’t like the decisions and the difficult choices we have to make to improve the services, the staffing, the environment and the technology at the hospital.”
Dr Sands admitted there are “significant problems” in PMH but said the hospital is challenged to provide a service in a system “which is adverse to people paying the monetary cost.”
“We are challenged and we are challenged for a number of reasons,” he said.
“We cannot retain nurses. We are losing nurses because we cannot compete with the United States and Canada, nurses are getting three times as much as what we are paying them. We have a number of beds out of commission and the demand on the system exceeds the ability to respond and it is made worse by legacy debt and the fact that health care is free.
He continued: “We are paying $50 to $80,000 for each patient per year (for dialysis patients).
“So we are challenged to provide a service in a system which is adverse to people paying the monetary cost. The $180 million from the public Hospitals Authority, 80 per cent goes to salaries and benefits.
“So when you talk about medication, equipment, supplies, dialysis, cat scans, etc, and you have to provide that service to the Rand Memorial, PMH and Memorial, the truth is the investment in health, relative to the benchmarked standard, is not enough.”
In August, Dr Sands said in order to resolve the problems at the hospital, health officials have to complete the renovations at PMH, increase the hospital’s capacity, get patients in and out faster and take non-essential services out of PMH.
In July, the Accident and Emergency Department at PMH experienced a series of challenges, forcing the hospital to relocate some patients to the South Beach Clinic and having other patients wait for more than 24 hours.
At the time, Dr Sands said that the “perfect storm” was caused by years of “dumb and inappropriate decisions”.
He was referring to political decisions.
“Honestly,” he added at the time, “I am not sure when a solution to the ‘mess’ will be found.”