Make Healthcare a Priority

THE issue of beds or the lack thereof at Victoria Hospital has been a problem for some time now. Many of us have gone through the experience of either being admitted to hospital or having someone we know being admitted, and being sent home shortly after as a result of the hospital not having any bed space to accommodate. Even in cases where the patient’s state of health requires further attention, the hospital seems faced with very limited choices, which include sending them away as quickly as possible, or squeezing them into a not so comfortable corner of a packed ward.

As a result of the current status quo, many people in homes across the country have been forced to become their own nurses, when patients come home early, while others who can afford it hire a private nurse or home caregiver.

At this point, the issue seems to be above the heads of even the hospital administration, as no matter how many complaints are made, rarely does anyone bother to respond publically, or (as far as it appears) make any substantial effort to fix the problems. Some of the people who have tried to make a difference have been met with the brick wall of “lack of resources” that seems to be stiffing the nation’s vital health care facility from making any real progress.

As a contributor in this week’s edition of the VOICE so rightly pointed out (see page 14), some people have the ways and means to pay for a flight to visit foreign doctors when all else fails to get health issues addressed locally, but what about the other people who do not have that option? Are they left to stay at home suffering, until perhaps a medical vessel from a friendly government comes by to save the day, just like it would if we were a worn-torn country?

Just when it seems things are already at their worst, come still more reports from patients at the island’s most central hospital.

Patients in the maternity ward of Victoria Hospital reported this week that as a result of the maternity ward being over capacity, beds were recently placed into the hospital’s kitchen to accommodate expectant mothers. One patient shared with the VOICE that mothers were also being pushed into having C-sections done, as a result of there being no bed space. In that particular instance, the mother-to-be questioned why induction had been overlooked, and why doctors were rushing to perform a C-section, even though she wasn’t facing any complications, nor was there anything unusual about the length of time she’d spent in labour.

More details on the status of Victoria Hospital’s maternity ward will be featured in a subsequent issue of the VOICE. As it relates to health care in general in Saint Lucia, things are at critical proportions and affect every member of our society.

We can’t blame a single government; and here’s why: The two political parties that go back and forth at the helm have implemented various measures to improve health care over the years, but nothing has been lasting, or able to make the sort of change necessary to shift things in a significant way, for the wellbeing of the people of Saint Lucia. Every time progress appears to be underway, there is either a switch of administration, or something else is brought into focus; some regulation that has been overlooked, a new expense or reason the project cannot continue as planned. At this point, the only way forward is an immediate resolution. The issue of beds at Victoria Hospital must be dealt with in a sustainable way while we wait for other hospitals on the island, like the new St Jude Hospital and the Owen King European Union Hospital (OKEU) to be opened. We cannot overlook and accept the problems just because this is a transition period. This transition period is a moment that matters most, and only in the aftermath will we see the kind of damage done to livelihoods if we don’t get things under control now.

There are lives at risk, and no amount of politics or red tape can ever be justifiable where the failure to deliver adequate health care is concerned.

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