Internal audits at the island’s only mental health institution have discovered worrying deficits in the level of patient care.
While not giving details, Director of the Psychiatric Hospital David Leacock told Barbados TODAY the quality of patient care did not meet international standards.
“As far as what we wanted to achieve that we perhaps did not achieve . . . we started doing some internal audits of the level of patient care we wanted to achieve. While we have seen some improvements, it is not at the level we wanted to be at just yet,” Leacock revealed.
He said the mental health institution would seek support from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), to improve the service and processes.
“We want to make sure the care that we are providing Barbados is comparable to any first world country across the world; our internal process as far as ensuring that we can do things we want to do here. We need to improve some of those processes to become more efficient in the delivery of our care,” the hospital director added.
Leacock disclosed that the hospital’s population decreased by four per cent in the past year and he expected the trend to continue.
The director added that there was also a steep decline in the number of patients admitted for the first time.
“We saw a 15 per cent reduction in first admissions to [the] hospital. There was an overall reduction in total admissions . . . which includes first admissions and readmissions, by six percent. We had predicted a decrease of five to eight per cent in overall admissions and it fell by six per cent; and we had expected to have a two per cent reduction in our chronic long-stay patients.”
There are just over 500 patients at the Psychiatric Hospital, down from about 530 and the director said he expected the number to fall even further by the end of the first quarter of 2016.
“You could more or less extrapolate that for the next year and say for the next three months you can expect to see that trend continue based on what we normally see within the first three months of the year.”
He described 2015 as a challenging year for the Psychiatric Hospital on some fronts, but rewarding in other areas. Leacock referred to industrial action by staff and other issues, which included working conditions.
“Obviously you would have had some industrial relations challenges along the way; a couple of issues the staff would have had that prevented them functioning as they should.
Leacock said that during the past year, the hospital was able to upgrade the physical plant, reorganize some services, expand its community clinics and forge greater relationships with the private sector. “So from that standpoint we managed to see improvements all around,” he stressed.
One of Leacock’s main goals this year is to significantly improve the working conditions for staff, adding that a happier staff would be a better functioning staff.
Complaining about unsuitable conditions and hours of work, staff of the 124-year-old Black Rock institution took industrial action last year.
Several photographs that were circulated on social media showed extensive decay to the hospital’s structure, rotting furniture and patients lying on the floor. Nurses also charged that patients on the ward could not get potable drinking water, while others suffered from diarrhea after using broken faucets. They were also reports of sheep droppings in the kitchen and the growth of fungus on the walls in some wards.
At the time, the head of the Unity Workers Union Caswell Franklyn said the hospital was in a deplorable state and was not suitable for patient care, describing the plant as “ just a sty”.
“Patients should not be in those conditions. Some of the plant cannot be upgraded because, for example in Grassfield Ward, there is a crack in the wall from the 2007 earth tremor. They have patched the crack but the material used keeps falling out.
“Some of the buildings are structurally unsound. The cleaning of the wards has not been done for so long that it is a joke. Under these circumstances I am not going to wait too long on a response from the Ministry
of the Civil Service,” Franklyn warned.
Minister of Health John Boyce later admitted that conditions at the island’s lone Psychiatric Hospital were less than satisfactory.
“It’s obviously an unsatisfactory condition which must be corrected,” Boyce told Barbados TODAY in August.