Monday 26 October, 2020

Questions raised about 24-hour clinic service

Winston Scott Polyclinic (File Photo)

Winston Scott Polyclinic (File Photo)

On the eve of two of the island’s main polyclinics transitioning to offer 24-hour service, investigations by LOOP NEWS have revealed that all parties are not in agreement over the staff needed to man the two health institutions.

Minister of Health and Wellness Minister Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic earlier this month said the necessary training and upgrades to infrastructure and security had been completed and the next step would be an orientation for the doctors and nurses ahead of the June 1 start date.

That date is when patients will be able to access medical care on a continuous basis, Monday through Sunday, at the Winston Scott Polyclinic, Jemmott’s Lane, St Michael, and the David Thompson Health and Social Services Complex, Glebe Land, St John.

“We are ready to go.  What we are offering is more than Fast Track that at the Winston Scott Polyclinic.  During the course of the next week [or so], we are going to be putting out some notices in the media to indicate to persons exactly the persons who should come to the two polyclinics for the 24-hour service . . .  and the services that will be offered there. 

“We are going to be doing exactly what would have been happening with those persons if they had gone to the QEH (Queen Elizabeth Hospital) and if they were not consider to be emergent or requiring emergency care so that what we do at the polyclinic and we also will be having some radiological services so that you can have x-rays and so on and it will take away a lot of waiting time of persons who would be in accident and emergency,” Lieutenant Colonel Bostic said, adding that measures were in place to deal with cases seen at the polyclinic which would  require hospital intervention.

An area of contention has been staffing and the minister noted that while there was a nursing shortage in Barbados, it was a matter that they have been dealing with for the last several months.

He told journalists this was why the government was unable to roll out it 24-hour polyclinics plan at an earlier date, as had been hoped.

“[But] we are satisfied that we have an adequate number of personnel to be able to do what we intend to do. Of course, we are also on a parallel track in the Ministry of Health and Wellness… we are also in the process of advertising overseas.

As a matter of fact, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital has already benefited from this process with four or five nurses and there is another set that are due to come in.  We know that we need more nurses and, we believe that we can operate with what we have at this point in time while seeking to get other resources,” he added.

However, the picture being painted by the Minister is not as rosy as it might seem. One source, who has a working knowledge of the planned shift towards the 24-hour system has suggested that it is not as straightforward as the minister is suggesting.

“This [24-hour shift] is a really problematic area,” the source told LOOP NEWS, pointing to the fact that the Ministry and the body representing the nurses, the Barbados Nurses Association (BNA) have been holding several meeting with the Permanent Secretary and other officials.

“From the nurses’ end, they have put forward what the requirements are, what the needs are and what must be put in place for the staff and the nurses.  It, however, appears a case of the Ministry wanting to fulfil a mandate, regardless,” another source added.

When LOOP NEWS reached out to President of the BNA, Joannah Waterman said the major concern has been staffing requirements to manage both facilities.

“We will wait and see what the impact and the outcome will be, and will be standing ready to move to another level, whatever that level is required,” she added, while declining further comment.

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