By Shamar Blunt
A leading medical consultant believes the impact of Barbados’ growing Non-communicable Disease (NCD) epidemic has become an even more dire problem for the island’s acute healthcare facility because of COVID-19.
Dr Kenneth Connell said: “I probably would have said it is more dramatic than that,” in response to recent assertions by Acting Director of Medical Services Dr Chaynie Williams that NCD sufferers were contributing significantly to delays in the Accident and Emergency Department.
Dr Connell, the Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of West Indies Cave Hill Campus and Consultant Physician at the QEH, noted:
“The emergency [department] pre-COVID was already a difficult place in terms of waiting time… What has happened post-COVID, is an increase in the NCD emergencies – stroke, heart attack and heart failure. COVID has been the propellent for a lot of this. So patients admitted with emergencies can sometimes remain in A&E department for two, three days waiting to be placed on the ward,” he explained.
Dr Williams recently told the radio call-in programme Down to BrassTacks on which callers raised the issue of the delivery of service at the hospital: “The emergency department’s challenges are a health system challenge as it represents one geographic location. We have many complications of non-communicable diseases – kidney, heart, and others – that patients need in-patient care [for] and many times persons spend days in the Accident and Emergency Department trying to access in-patient care because they are very ill or in hospital and can’t get out of hospital because they are not well enough.”
Agreeing that the NCD situation at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital is severely impacted by the NCD situation, Dr Connell said this is due directly to the influences of the pandemic. In fact, he suggested to Barbados TODAY that the pressure being placed on the island’s healthcare system from Barbadians being treated for NCDs is being understated.
Noting the importance of expanding the A&E Department in order to cater to the island’s emergency health needs, Dr Connell insisted that any such expansion would not be the answer to Barbados’ out-of-control NCD war.
“Expanding the A&E Department, which there has been a lot of talk about, I am not sure is the actual solution. What would happen, the beds from the expanded department would just be basically holding more patients with NCD emergencies.
“I think that the country needs to have a serious conversation with all stakeholders – from the Ministry of Health and Wellness, civil society organisations, patient advocate groups – so that we can decide how best we can manage or better manage NCDs before they reach the hospital. If we do not do that, then what we are likely to see is what I would describe as a slowly growing pandemic.”
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 2022 Non-communicable Disease Progress Monitor report states that the percentage of deaths from NCDs in Barbados in 2019 stood at 83 per cent or 2,800 total NCD deaths, which is above the world average of 74 per cent.
Dr Connell suggested that education surrounding the nation’s NCD fight needed to be increased significantly if the current situation at the QEH and other healthcare facilities is to ever be addressed. [email protected]