Members of the public suffered a grueling morning at the Winston Scott Polyclinic. The sick and those accompanying them endured hot sun and intermittent showers, as they waited in vain on the promised reopening of the medical complex.
In fact, at least one trade union official said Barbadians will have to live without the services of the clinic until nurses and other members of staff are convinced that the complex is suitable for re-opening.
Over the weekend, the Ministry of Health and Wellness announced a 10 o’clock, Monday morning re-opening of the polyclinic as officials sought to implement security upgrades after two violent incidents last week.
At that time however, staff was struggling to re-open the complex as Medical Officer in charge of the polyclinic, Dr. Ingrid Cumberbatch informed those waiting to enter that they would have to wait for another hour and a half.
“I think they have handled this situation very unprofessionally. If they knew they were not ready to re-open, we should have been informed of this from yesterday, instead of having people come around here from as early as 9:30,” said one woman, who arrived early in hopes of having an “important procedure” performed.
Another chimed in: “There are people out here with babies from as early as 9 o’clock or maybe even before that. Only one young lady with a child is seated and all of the other mothers are standing outside with their babies, just waiting and at a standstill. There are elderly people out here also, so they should have been a bit more upfront about letting everybody know what the case is.”
During the lengthy morning wait; a young girl in a primary school uniform began to vomit near the entrance of the clinic, but was forced to continue waiting outside with only a bottle of sprite to replenish her lost fluids.
When asked by Barbados TODAY to provide an update for the benefit of the public, Dr Cumberbatch exclaimed, “No and No and No!”
Eventually, management reportedly decided to close the polyclinic for the day and re-open tomorrow at 12:30 p.m.
However, acting General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), Delcia Burke is not yet convinced that such a time is reasonable.
“I am not going to tell them to stall the opening, but it is pretty obvious that it cannot be opened tomorrow. From what I am seeing, the cleaners and the nurses are trying, but it does not look feasible at this time.
“They are now in there with all kinds of bleach and all kinds of things and in some areas, they can’t start doing anything, because the areas have not yet been cleaned,” said Burke.
She added: “I don’t think they see it as beyond the call of duty, but because it is something they don’t normally do, and so it is taking some time.
Longstanding General Secretary of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados, Dennis DePeiza, was a bit more optimistic about the new proposed re-opening.
“Clearly there’s a lot of work to be done in terms of the sanitation and reopening of the operation and some internal work that has been commissioned over the weekend by the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
“I would hope that by midday tomorrow it would be in a position to open the doors to the public again,” he said.
The union leaders could not comment on the proposed security upgrades, saying they had not yet been sufficiently briefed on the matter.
In the evening session of the House of Assembly Minister of Health Lt Col Jeffrey Bostic addressed the situation at the polyclinic with a stern appeal to Barbadians to desist from engaging in lawless behaviour at polyclinics or at any healthcare facility.
“This is a no, no,” he said.
“I appeal to people to be responsible about this because when you behave in a manner that was displayed over the last two or three weeks and you traumatise the staff and then services cannot be delivered, you may be stopping services from being delivered to your family, friends and members of your community and that does not make sense.”
He warned that if necessary his Ministry was prepared to take tough action to counter such bad behaviour.
“And while I am not one in favour of denying people access to healthcare, [when] you have repeat offenders then we are going to have to find some mechanisms to ensure that the few do not interrupt the flow of the many,” Bostic told the Lower Chamber.
Electric doors, scanners and limits on the number of people allowed to accompany those seeking care are among sweeping security measures to be implemented at the clinic. In light of the recent violence, the changes have received some public support but others pleaded with authorities to take it a step further.
“Instead of guards, there should be police posted at the polyclinics, because they are better equipped to handle these things than a guard who hasn’t encountered these things before,” said one woman waiting outside of the polyclinic.
“I came here on Friday and saw the people outside scrubbing the chairs and telling us the clinic is closed. If people want to get into those types of altercations, take it outside or something. An innocent person could have been seriously injured or killed in the crossfire,” she said.