Technology is about to end the policy of patients being assigned to a specific polyclinic where they were first treated and their records held, Minister of Health Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic has revealed.
With the digitisation of patient records at the polyclinics now complete, Barbadians will soon have the freedom to attend the facility that is most convenient rather than being restricted to one that houses their records, he said.
Speaking at the official start of the long-anticipated 24-hour service at the Sir Winston Scott Polyclinic, Lt. Col. Bostic declared that round-the-clock care is only the beginning of Government’s plans to redefine the functions of the polyclinics within a progressing health care system.
He said: “This is the start of a re-look of the polyclinic system in Barbados. We have a system which was created several years ago, and it has served this country very well and that is thanks to the staff who have been working in the polyclinics.
“However, the system was created at a time when all of the records were done manually and so people were tied to catchment areas because obviously if your records are at one polyclinic, you would not be able to be seen at another polyclinic.
“We have to start thinking outside of the box and now that we have digitized the medical records throughout all of the polyclinics, it is now accessible to all polyclinics and we have to now see what we can do to ensure for example that a person who works at St George but lives in St Peter, can go to the Glebe [in St George] instead of Maurice Byer polyclinic [in St Peter] in order to fit their work schedule. I believe that this would significantly improve productivity.”
But the Minister noted that while the digital infrastructure was in place for this service, he could not give a definitive start date, as he said there are a number of logistical kinks still to be worked out.
“I can’t give a date on that one because discussions have to be entered into now with the polyclinics and their management, but it is something that I am quite sure will come on stream soon.
“We had some preliminary discussions in the ministry, and we believe that this is the right direction to go in and the faster the better,” he said.
The health minister pointed out that among the logistical considerations is the potential for some polyclinics to be overburdened. Government needed to ensure, therefore, that proper burden-sharing measures are in place, he said.
“We have to look and see how things are going, so that we can ensure that no one polyclinic is overburdened because that is something that we will have to look at.
“We may also have to relocate some persons and move some resources from areas where there isn’t a heavy usage of the service, if that becomes necessary.
“The point is that we are looking to see how we can provide adequate care to all Barbadians at any time and to improve on productivity which is vital for the economy,” Bostic said.
He also revealed that as part of the overhaul of the health system, Government is seeking to decentralise the ambulance service.
He noted that had it not been for the postponement of plans for the David Thompson Health and Wellness Centre to be a pilot in the urgent care service, an ambulance would have been stationed at the St John facility.
The Minister of Health said: “We had plans to station one there. There was an ambulance at Arch Cot Fire station but that was removed because of renovations but that ambulance is back there now.
“Now is the time to see how best we can utilise the ambulance service and there will be some decentralisation.”