December 17, 2004

Small complaints a big headache at Hospital

About 70 per cent of persons who go the Accident and Emergency Department of the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital are not emergencies.

And according to head of the Department Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache this creates a big problem. {{more}}

The set-up at the Accident and Emergency Department of the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital is structured so that initial checks are made by a nurse, who fills out a card with your complaint, taking your blood pressure and your temperature among other checks. The checks are made on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The nurse then decides whether or not your case is in urgent need of attention and lists it as such.

But according to Dr. Keizer, sometimes the real emergencies are stuck in the crowd waiting to get their names written down, and this creates a problem, backing up the whole operation.

Dr. Keizer, in charge of the Accident and Emergency Department since 1997, said that persons with pains like headaches or backaches should go to their district clinic. There are 39 district clinics and according to the accident and emergency specialist, doctors should always be on call at these clinics. Hospitals are also situated in Georgetown, Mesopotamia, Chateaubelair, Bequia and Union Island.

She noted that improved confidence and knowledge in the district system can help with the problem of the sometime unneeded trip to Kingstown. She, however, noted that in her opinion, persons sometimes feel they would not get medication or they would have to come to Kingstown “to get an X-ray anyway or something like that”.

Dr. Keizer said that nurses at the district clinics should always be able to find the doctor assigned to the clinic. She said the nurses are capable of assessing a patient and finding out if that patient needs to go to Kingstown for further checks or hospitalisation.

Dr. Keizer said that although some persons complain about the wait, St. Vincent has some of the best times in the Caribbean in terms of seeing patients who come to the hospital. The Hospital tries to maintain two doctors in peek hours that run from 10 am to 10 p.m. She said that this is sometimes a problem as interns should not be placed in Accident and Emergency.

“Only experienced people who can manage stuff are put in A&E,” said the doctor.

Records show that the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital sees about 32000 per year, or a little under 3000 patients a month. The busiest times at the hospital, according to Dr. Keizer, are Fridays, Saturdays, pay days, Carnival and after big entertainment events, mostly at the Victoria Park.