The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) treats a victim of gun crimes every three days, placing a strain on the island’s primary acute care facility, a hospital spokesman has revealed.
The situation with other violent crimes is even more severe, with the QEH treating a victim a day, Head of the Accident and Emergency Department (A&E) Dr Chaynie Williams added.
Dr Williams described this condition as a serious public health issue that requires an urgent remedy.
“It affects us in every way,” she told a recent panel discussion entitled, Gun Violence –– What Does It Have To Do With Me? hosted by the Men’s Fellowship Department of the Cave Hill Wesleyan Holiness Church.
“You can picture if someone is a patient with gunshot injuries, it prevent us from seeing other people with conditions, it affect how patients are admitted to the wards, how they get to the operating theatre; so we consider it a health care issue that has a ripple effect on our health care system,” she said.
The health care professional expressed concern about the generally high level of violence on the island which takes a toll on the Martindale’s Road health care facility.
“We have [to treat victims of] acts of violence every day in our Accident & Emergency Department — from stabbings, cutlasses give some fairly spectacular injuries; rocks can kill,” she said.
Most worrying, Dr Williams disclosed, was the number of incidents involving females.
“Women and young girls are actually very violent to one another. We have fights from schools almost every day. So we are concerned about acts of violence. We do consider it a public health issue of significance,” she told the discussion.
While Dr Williams did not give a dollar figure to indicate the costs of treating victims of violence, she was at pains to point out that it was a crippling drain on the QEH’s already spiralling health care bill, as well as its human resources.
“Those patients need blood, fluid, pain medicine. They need antibiotics, [they] need tetanus coverage, [they] need a doctor, a nurse, an orderly. They may need a CAT scan, x-rays, many need a tube in their chest, they may need a surgeon, so they need a lot of persons just to save one person,” she explained.
Dr Williams described instances where victims, especially those of gun and gang violence, were merely dropped off at the hospital without any warning.
“We have on occasion the gang who brings the person just drops them there, search them to make sure there is no gun on them, no drugs on them, drag off their shirts, and run away with the all evidence and just leave the person outside in the ambulance bay or the waiting area for us to happen to know there is someone on the outside trying to take their last breath or bleeding to death,” she added.
Acting Assistant Superintendent of Police David Welch, who was also a member of the panel, told the gathering that the police were equally concerned about the ease with which Barbadians accessed firearms.
He noted that of the ten murders committed so far this year, seven involved the use of firearms. In addition, the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) had confiscated 46 firearms so far this year.
But Welch insisted that gun violence was not random in Barbados.
The police public relations officer supported Dr Williams’ comments that more females were involved in violence, saying women were increasingly becoming perpetrators and also aiding criminals.
“For one murder last year, [a] particular female organized the crime . . . . There were men who committed the actual offence but she played the organizing role. We are seeing females not being the mere shoplifters any more, but robbing persons,” he said.
Welch also noted that females were often instrumental in bringing firearms into fetes and other public events.
The panel, which also included founder of the Save Our Sons (SOS) Movement and District Superintendent of the Nazarene Church in Barbados Dr Orlando Seale and former Haynesville “bad boy” Mario Bruce, stressed that society could no longer bury its head in the sand about gun violence.
The panel blamed the breakdown of the family among other things for the social ill. It underscored that as the problem affected everyone, the full involvement of the church, civil society, citizens and all other sectors was necessary to bring the situation under control.