by Lisa Bayley
With more persons accessing general practice services at the polyclinics, the Ministry of Health is strengthening the institutional capacity at the primary care level to deliver additional services and make the polyclinics the entry point to the health system.
While addressing graduates of the Competence-Based Instructional Design Facilitation and Assessment in Education and Urgent Care Training Courses, which culminated last Friday at the auditorium of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Minister of Health Donville Inniss, explained these courses were just part of the plan to strengthen primary health care.
“Some $200,000 was committed to stage the Urgent Care and Train the Trainer Courses through a strategic alliance with the Accident and Emergency Department of QEH and the Barbados Community College, to assist with the delivery of the courses. Today, we have 119 graduands who will be awarded certification in one or both disciplines. This certification will also provide some of the graduates with continuous professional education credits from the medical and the nursing,” Inniss said.
The ministry, he added, was conducting such training to ensure that all polyclinics were adequately equipped and resourced with “the appropriate health technology, which will be used and applied correctly by competent personnel, with minimal risk to their clients and to themselves”.
Twenty eight persons including consultants, registrars, medical officers of health, clinical medical officers, health sisters, pharmacists and environmental health officers successfully completed this training; while 88 comprising clinical medical officers, senior health sisters, health sisters, staff nurses and a nursing assistant, successfully completed the Urgent Care training.
Inniss suggested that it was time for the polyclinics to take their place as the first line of health care, while the Queen Elizabeth Hospital would act only as a referral point for secondary or tertiary care or for emergencies.
“I have heard the calls and I have decided that the Ministry must press ahead to bringing these services closer to the primary care setting. There is no reason why the QEH must be the only public facility to provide some critical services… Our plans are to provide a wide spectrum of accessible and innovative services, many of which would traditionally only have been available through the hospital system. These services will shortly include dedicated specialised care at polyclinics, such as point of care testing for CNCDs, paediatrics, adolescent health, obstetrics and gynaecology, ophthalmology as well as radiology and other diagnostic services to early detect, diagnose and/or treat all types of diseases.” Inniss explained.
The health minister also noted that after holding impromptu discussions earlier this week with QEH nursing, human resources and medical staff, they had been given the ‘go ahead’ to advertise “as early as this weekend” for additional nurses to help ease the pressure in that institution.
“However”, he added, “that is not going to work forever. My view is that we have to get it right at the polyclinics. We have to get it right at the primary care level.”
These measures, the health minister pointed out, would reduce time and resources spent in sending persons from the polyclinics to the QEH to address primary health care issues.
Between 2008 to 2011, there was a 15.4 per cent increase in the number of visits to the polyclinics for general practitioner services when compared to the preceding period 2004 to 2007. The same period saw an increase in the number of new clients accessing GP services from polyclinics. In 2009, there was a 27 per cent increase in the number of new clients when compared to 2008. During the same period there were 42,712 new clients accessing GP services alone at the polyclinics.