Government has been accused of using “smoke and mirrors” to hide the poor quality of health care being delivered at the island’s top health institution –– the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Former Minister of Health Senator Dr Jerome Walcott levelled this charge today while speaking to members of the Press at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Buildings, The City.
Arguing that public officials were making political statements in response to legitimate questions and concerns, the Opposition Senator said: “The Barbados Labour Party is saying this must stop, especially when it comes to matters of life and death. Nothing can be more unpatriotic than a Government which, by its chosen policies and its deliberate actions, fails to properly prepare for the health care of its citizens.
“The BLP is appalled and outraged by the responses of both the chief executive officer Dr Dexter James and Acting Minister of Health Donville Inniss to a simple concern expressed regarding dialysis treatment at the hospital,” Walcott said, adding that “matters concerning the health care of Barbadians should not be treated in such a cavalier and crude manner.”
Insisting that enough was enough, and that he was not engaging in any cheap politics, the former Minister of Health questioned Minister of Health John Boyce’s claim that there was no shortage of drugs at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, arguing that “every single doctor and nurse at that institution knows that is not true”.
“The minister is free to make any idle boast, but it is altogether in a different realm to be trifling daily with the lives of Barbadians, some of whom are surviving by luck and some on their deathbeds because of equipment breakdowns, insufficient funding and an absence of necessary drugs and supplies for medical staff to properly do their jobs of saving lives,” Walcott said.
Taking a critical look at the quality of service being offered in the Dialysis Unit, he sought an assurance that not a single dialysis patient was infected or had died as a result of the presence of a bacteria in the unit.
Walcott also suggested that assurance should be given to the public that there was not a breakdown in the protocol for testing of the water being used in the unit. The Opposition senator further sought clarification from management that on Monday, April 14, during a Caesarian section there was a power outage in one of the obstetrics theatres for approximately 15 minutes, which reportedly forced attending staff to use torchlights and cellphone lighting to continue the procedure.
He charged that the same patient developed a seizure with a slow pulse on the operating table and had to be manually assisted with ventilation until the power was restored.
Walcott asked: “Can the the management of the QEH explain how this could have occurred after more than $20 million electrical upgrade at that institution.”
Continuing his recitation of litany of woes, Walcott asked: “Is it true that only one of the three autoclaves [sterilizers] is working in the main sterilization department? Is it true that only one of the three sterlisers is working in the main operating theatre suite? How is this affecting the operating lists? Is it true that only one of the autoclaves is working in the laboratories? Is this an acceptable state of affairs in a tertiary care health institution in 2014?”
Walcott also identified deficiencies in the Lions Eye Care Centre, the Cardiac Suite and the Accident & Emergency Department. He charged that for the first time the Obstetrics and Paediatrics Departments held their annual perinatal review conference and no statistics were released to the public, neither was the media invited.
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