by Emmanuel Joseph
A dramatic rise in serious injuries stemming from an upsurge in violent crimes and road accidents has placed the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s (QEH) financial and human resources under such severe stress that is has been forced to even postpone elective surgeries.
This bleak revelation was made this afternoon by Chief Executive Officer of the QEH Dr Dexter James, who told Barbados TODAY that non-emergency cases were also being postponed.
“There has been an increase . . . upsurge in the number of injuries from accidents and violence. Some that you see in the papers are reported. We have had situations where patients presented unreported in the sense that it doesn’t make news or the headlines. But almost on a day or two basis our Accident and Emergency department (A&E) have had to deal with patients presenting with stabbings and gunshots. Some of it you would hear on the print and electronic media; others you wouldn’t hear about it. The patients come in, they are seen and they are discharged,” the CEO said.
Noting that the increase in these types of cases had justified the hospital’s decision to upgrade its security, the QEH chief said it was a burden the institution could ill afford.
“Injuries from accidents and violence would always pose a burden on any health system, because for the most part, it involves treating patients with emergency conditions that were unplanned for. It has implications for prioritization of our services, for instance our Accident and Emergency department. Whenever we have trauma cases presented we have to re-prioritize these as urgency. Of course, those presenting with gunshot wounds or injuries from motor vehicle accidents, because of the nature of the incident, would of course take a higher priority in the overall scheme of patients that we see in the Accident and Emergency department.”
Dr James further stated that in cases where some patients required surgery, the operating rooms now had to be opened and where these incidents occurred during the day, elective surgeries and non-emergency cases have to be postponed in order to make way for them.
“So, apart from the public health concerns around injuries from accidents and violence, from a hospital standpoint, it now places a burden on our already limited resources because we now have to deal with emergency situations, as well as it calls for a whole reorganization of priorities, in terms of patients who were booked for surgery for a given day, we now have to reschedule them,” the CEO stated.
He said that when it came to the A&E, patients who would have been set to be seen in a particular order, would consequently have to take a lower priority. He said the decision to tighten security at the A&E was to ensure a safer environment for staff and the public who use the facility, particularly where patients are victims of violent crime.
The country has experienced a spate of gun crimes recently, and only yesterday, two people died and five injured in two separate accidents.
It was in April of this year that a gunman burst into the QEH and threatened staff before making a daring escape. The incident, which occurred around 1 pm, forced management of the hospital to limit access
and cancel visiting hours for the remainder of that day.
According to reports, the gunman entered the hospital in an apparent rage following the death of a relative who had passed away while being treated at the health institution. No one was injured during the attack.
Following the assault, the QEH advised doctors and nurses to answer the doors with caution. Police launched an investigation into the incident. Soon afterwards, the administration announced that security at the hospital would be tightened in the coming months as authorities there sought to better protect patients and staff.
It was also disclosed that over the next three to six months, the QEH would be rolling out a major security enhancement project valued at around half a million dollars.
As CEO James said today, special attention was being paid to the Accident and Emergency Department, and the main entrance, where about ten clinics are in session per day and more than 500 people pass through during visiting hours.
The measures include improved perimeter fencing and lighting, the deployment of more security guards around the property, the installation of closed circuit television (CCTV) in various locations and additional screening and scanning devices.
Those measures have started in and around the A&E which now deploy hand-held body scanners and increased security guards through a private firm.
The CEO has also stated that the security in other areas would be installed as funds were made available.
The Director of Support Services Louise Bobb had also said the security project, which would be executed in phases, would result in adjustments to how persons enter and exit the facility in an effort to boost security.