A shortage of functioning equipment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) morgue is causing headaches for beleaguered staffers.
Two senior members of staff, who spoke to Barbados TODAY on the condition of anonymity outlined a litany of issues which they insist, need to be quickly addressed to make life easier for their workers.
One said that she would like authorities to deal with the “chronic” break down of the refrigerators which are used for storage of corpses. According to the hospital source, there are 34 freezers, plus the two used specifically for limbs and babies, and on a good day “you may get half working”. This has contributed to the outsourcing of cadavers to two contracted morgue facilities at an estimated cost to government of at least $150 per body per day.
“When the fridge malfunctions and you have a body in there, what they do is try not to open the other fridges on a constant basis so that the other little gases that keeping the bodies in there chilled won’t escape. When that is down you would smell the body and in there does start to smell stink and I know that can’t be safe for those workers,” the source lamented.
Added to that, there is a shortage of death carts, another source highlighted. This, he said, caused orderlies to be resourceful and either convert trolleys from the Accident and Emergency department or use the same beds a patient may have died on as a death cart.
He explained to Barbados TODAY that presently there was only one death cart in use.
“And it was there for a while outside the corridor of the morgue. Eventually, they went back using the old death cart because they were complaining it couldn’t steer properly when weight go on it. They sent it down by the engineers, the engineers change it and put on some wheels. Eventually, the cart finally went out of commission because no matter how many times you welded back on the wheel after a while it would break off. So now they got a trolley (like in A&E) that … they just remove the mattress and they use that as a death cart. But sometimes when the body too big and the patient can’t come off, that is when double work happens and they [orderlies] have to push that patient down stairs to the morgue in that bed and then they have to carry back the bed to the ward- that’s how bad it has gotten.”
Other equipment on the malfunction list is the hoist used to lift patients. The QEH source alleged however, that the majority of hoists do not work and “the few on the ward that work hardly anyone knows how to use them”.
According to both sources, these problems have been ongoing for a while and have been brought to the attention of the hospital’s hierarchy before without any action taken.
“Unless you are doctors, senior members or consultants your complaints will go on deaf ears” they charged.
Regarding some of the issues raised, Director of Support Services at the QEH, Louise Bobb, admitted that they had some challenges with the refrigerators, however, those are being rectified.
“The eight-body fridge had a problem last night and it was fixed today. . . the valve was replaced. So the bodies were taken out for that period and will be put back in. The six-body fridge is what is being tested right now. So we have 28 of the 34 in operation. So I do not consider that as major and chronic,” Bobb told Barbados TODAY.
“Adding more fridges would require additional space which we don’t have right now,” she added.
Addressing the issue of a shortage of death carts, the senior manager insisted they were two presently – one that was recently put into service but has broken down and another which also has an issue. She stressed that while over the past three weeks they indeed has some issues with the death carts they were working to correct them.
“It seems that they were yes using trolleys – not beds. But I have the senior orderly supervisor and engineering looking into that to see how soon we can get those repaired. But I still would say to you there is no chronic breakdown and if there are breakdowns they are [being] addressed,” Bobb maintained.