Princess Margaret Hospital. (File photo)
By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter
FORMER Health Minister Dr Duane Sands has said a number of consequences have manifested due to Princess Margaret Hospital reaching its maximum capacity as a result of non-COVID19 cases.
According to Dr Sands, many patients waiting for admission have been placed on trolleys, making it difficult to move patients back and forth to the operating room.
This sometimes means the congestion impacts the ability of ambulances to move because people remain on trolleys, highlighting a “phenomenal” backlog of cases.
The issue has been made worse by the shortage of nurses in the public healthcare system.
The Public Hospitals Authority released a statement last Thursday explaining the situation.
At the time, PHA said PMH’s Family Medicine Clinic at Agape House would “offer limited services” as nursing staff would be redeployed to the hospital. Only physicians remained deployed at Agape Clinic.
“Non-COVID hospital operations, resources, and services have been adjusted.
“Face-to-face out patient services, including elective surgeries and specialty clinics, are limited. Public/visitor access to our public hospitals remains limited to ensure the safety of patients and staff and to minimise further transmission of COVID,” the release read.
“As a result of decreased bed capacity, 40 patients at the hospital’s Emergency Department are awaiting admission. The Emergency Department is restricted to emergency cases only including major accidents, strokes, and heart attacks, trauma with major bleeding, loss of consciousness, and difficulty breathing.”
At the time, PMH anticipated an increase in bed capacity of 23 beds in a short 24-hour window.
Regarding the 40 patients that had been waiting at one point for admission, Dr Sands said: “That gives an idea of the seriousness of the situation at Princess Margaret Hospital and the consequences of that would be many patients are on trolleys. That then makes it difficult to move patients back and forth to the operating room. Sometimes it impacts the ability of ambulances to move because people remain on trolleys and so this is non-COVID and speaks to the phenomenal backlog of cases and also the capacity challenges at the main hospital.
“One major driving factor to this is the nursing shortage, but it speaks to the need for a very serious conversation about how do we build additional capacity in our hospitals in a holistic way because it’s more than just rooms. It’s more than just beds. It is, you know to put a patient through the hospital and the ability to get diagnostic and therapeutic services, but the biggest Achilles Heel is the shortage of nurses.”
The Free National Movement chairman believes another factor that has compounded the issue is funding.
“The access to funds for maintenance, repairs, supplies, new equipment, (and) human resources remains a problem. That then has a knock on effect in terms of whether you are able to bring new wards on stream and even if you are able to bring new wards on stream whether you have staff to nurse and care for patients.
“If you look in the operating rooms there are challenges in terms of the number of cases that can be done because of the number of theatre trained staff. Notwithstanding the fact that you may have multiple operating rooms, many of them cannot function because we don’t have staff and when I say staff I’m speaking specifically to operating room trained staff. Sometimes you have staff and you don’t have trollies to bring patients to (the) operating room.”
He also said: “If you look at the funding at the Public Hospitals Authority which is the main method of accessing acute care in The Bahamas, funding for the Public Hospitals Authority has historically been less than (the) need. So successive administrations have had to forgo certain options for maintenance contracts, for instance, for certain repairs, upgrades.”
“There’s often times a challenge with receivables, you know payables they are unable to pay vendors that provide certain essential service or medications or supplies and sometimes those vendors will threaten and say hey if I don’t get paid then I’m gonna stop providing. So it is a serious problem and it is made worse by a disconnect between the politics of healthcare and the reality of healthcare.”