JIS News

The accident and emergency unit at the Spanish Town Hospital in St. Catherine is to be upgraded at a cost of over $40 million. The funds will be provided by the National Health Fund (NHF).
“The preliminary plans are in place and we’re at the stage now where the work is out for tender, so we’re hoping that by the end of February to March, work would have started,” Chief Executive Officer at the hospital, Pauline Reid told JIS News.
Miss Reid said that the facility, in its present state, was too small and did not have all the emergency equipment needed. “In the emergency area, we are only able to accommodate four stretchers in the emergency bay. With the upgraded area, we will be able to accommodate 12 stretchers,” she pointed out. She said that the old maternity unit, which is presently unoccupied, would be renovated to facilitate the new Emergency Unit, which would be built to accommodate more patients.
Additionally, she told JIS News, new equipment such as, suction machines, vital signs monitors and a facility to provide for the piping of oxygen, instead of having the regular oxygen cylinders, would be installed in the unit.
Meanwhile, the medical laboratory, where diagnostic tests are done, is also scheduled for upgrading. “Right now, a project proposal has been submitted to the National Health Fund, it has been approved and we’re just waiting for the final work to be done at that level and for implementation,” informed Miss Reid, adding that a date had not yet been set for work to start. She estimated that there should be “some signs of work within the next six weeks”.
According to Miss Reid, the upgrading and re-equipping of the laboratory would significantly improve the services offered at the hospital.”Right now, the services we offer are below standard, because the machines, most of them, are down. They are old equipment and they are not functioning,” she lamented.
The Chief Executive Officer pointed out that re-equipping the laboratory would be done on a “leased basis.” This arrangement, she explained, was necessary because the contracted company would be fully responsible for preventative maintenance and the upgrading of equipment.
“The system will be computerized, which means that instead of practitioners going to the lab or sending for a report, they can access the report from the clinical area,” she noted.
The hospital, the largest Type B hospital in the island, was built in 1952 with a bed capacity of 275 patients. Its current capacity is 377, with average bed occupancy of 91 per cent. Over the years, there have been some upgrading work done but, according to Miss Reid, the improvement efforts have not kept abreast of population growths in communities such as Portmore, Eltham and Ensom City.
Statistics reveal that over 6,000 babies are delivered annually with an average of 20 to 25 deliveries on a daily basis. Miss Reid noted that last December, 40 babies were delivered on one day.Currently, the hospital treats over 4,000 casualty and emergency cases monthly and has over 18,000 admissions annually.
One major concern at the hospital, Miss Reid informed JIS News, was the lack of a reliable ambulance service. She said that the hospital should have at least three functioning ambulances in the system, but only one is operational.
She noted also, that because the hospital did not provide diagnostic services, a number of patients have to be sent by ambulance to other facilities in Kingston to have x-rays and ultra-sounds done.
“This makes it quite difficult to respond to emergency calls and, in many cases, the hospital has to engage the services of a private emergency vehicle if the patient has to be moved immediately,” she said, pointing out that it costs the hospital some $6,000 per trip to have a private vehicle collect and deliver the patient.

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