Dear Minister Deyalsingh,
I write to you as a citizen of T&T who has been paying all relevant taxes inclusive of health surcharge for the past 25 years, to highlight an experience which must be of interest to you as it pertains to an overwhelming lack of compassion, care and concern at San Fernando General Hospital during an emergency.
Sir, where will you take your mother who is seriously ill?
I was faced with this scenario on the November 3, where my mother who suffers from diabetes and hypertension, both of which are being managed well for some years now, became ill and unconscious within 5 minutes of first symptoms.
Panic set in and my brother and I did what we can to keep her lifeless body breathing. I immediately called the EMS as this appeared to be the quickest way to get her to health care, considering the dire circumstances.
This is what follows:
• Called 811 three times–on each occasion, I got all agents were busy, need to wait until they are available. Calls placed at 2:21 pm, 2:22 pm and 2:27 pm on November 3.
• As in this situation every second counts, I decided to drive her to the hospital. On reaching the hospital, at the Ambulance Bay with the hazard light flashing, no one around appeared alarmed. The guard looked at me and said, “yes sir?” I told him I had a medical emergency, and he directed me to the agents who can help, “through the glass door and the first door on the left”, he said.
• On meeting the agents, I explained the medical emergency. One guy who was writing, continued writing, and the other agent said she has to find a wheelchair. I was shocked at the lack of empathy, not even a pretence of concern. As I continued to look at the agent in disbelief of her response, she sternly said, “I told you I have to find a wheelchair!”.
• I went back to the ambulance bay to check on my mother- still unconscious but breathing heavily.
• NO ONE CAME TO LOOK AT MY MOTHER AND TO MAKE ANY ENQUIRES OR MEDICAL EVALUATION.
• There were two ambulances in the bay and four agents in light blue shirts walking around. I told one of them we have an emergency and needed a trolley and he said all trolleys are in use, but will check.
• After 20mins, with no progress at the hospital, with the life of my mother at risk and getting worse, as her breathing was losing rhythm, I had no choice but to leave the ineffective San Fernando General Hospital in search of a private medical institution.
• On reaching the private medical institution, things happen quickly, staff were alerted, the head nurse was issuing orders, doctors were checking my mother and questioning us and nurses were in attendance. Since the start of this ordeal, there was finally a sigh of relief, as my mother was in the presence of people who cared. She recovered later that day.
This experience has led me to question whether the San Fernando General Hospital is in bad shape. It is a far cry from being a people-centred, caring, proactive institution that assures standards of excellence.
1. Do we have proper processes but incompetent personnel?
2. Do we have bad processes and incompetent personnel?
3. Do we have competent management with mature systems, policies and performance indicators, whereby bad processes and incompetent personnel can be identified and dealt with?
4. What are the best practices for emergency medical care, and how does the emergency-relevant staff at the hospital measure up?
This low quality of service must be a concern of yours.
It cannot and must not be tolerated.
I urge you to evaluate this situation. I have provided details so that you can examine and make decisive and quick sustainable actions to resolve the ineffectiveness of the EMS and staff our institutions with competent personnel. The core values of professionalism, total quality and client-centredness were severely lacking with no discernible attempt at compliance.
I do hope that this letter and the problems identified will be treated with the seriousness they deserve and that you are firmly dedicated to continuous improvement.
Health care must be independent of politics, wealth, power and family relations: I am a taxpaying citizen and I demand a high quality of service.
So now, where will you take your mother if she is seriously ill?
I look forward to your response.