On Thursday, December 5, 2018, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Board of Management launched a new sub-committee, the Patient Empowerment Committee. Chaired by former police inspector Phillip Lewis, the Committee is charged with providing an inclusive forum where patients, caregivers, and patient advocates can actively participate in decision making and provide meaningful feedback on the patient experience at the QEH.
Chairman of the Board of Management of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Mrs. Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland, in her opening remarks indicated that the committee was the first of its kind at the QEH, and that Inspector Lewis was selected because he was not affiliated with any health related NGOs, and as such would function as an impartial convener of the committee. She went on to say that in addition to his neutrality, Inspector Lewis also provided a unique perspective on how to engage with health services.
Mrs. Bynoe-Sutherland attributed the creation of the committee to the Board of Management which established the committee to remove barriers hindering access to care and in so doing provide improved access to the QEH’s services. Touting the Board’s recognition of the importance of patient empowerment she stated “Patient empowerment is important at the individual, institutional and systemic levels.” She went on to say that patients who are actively engaged in their own care, who can, and do help themselves tended to better manage their own healthcare and have better outcomes. Bynoe-Sutherland acknowledged that at the institutional level the QEH needed to involve patients to help “develop policy, shape implementation processes, and monitor and evaluate developments.” She went on to say that “Our implementation will factor in the users much more critically in terms of what we are doing, and ultimately, what we are aiming for is improved access to services and the removal of the barriers which are often systemic, social, or just a product of how the QEH operates.” Addressing patient empowerment at the systemic level Bynoe-Sutherland revealed that more focus needed to be placed on actively engaging users of the health system in the policy making process.
Describing himself as task oriented, Chairman of the Patient Empowerment Committee, Inspector Lewis stated that he hoped the committee creates an inclusive forum to better represent the voices of vulnerable groups which frequently rely on the QEH’s services.
The Patient Empowerment Committee’s members are drawn from a wide cross section of health related nongovernmental organizations. NGO’s currently represented on the committee are the Diabetes Association of Barbados, Barbados Association of Retired Persons, Barbados Council for the Disabled, Barbados Family Planning Association, Cancer Support Services, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados Inc., Rehabilitating and Enabling Society for Amputees and two representatives from the QEH’s Social Work and Clinical Risk Departments. However, to ensure the committee’s inclusivity and the constant generation of fresh ideas, other health related NGOs will be invited to serve on the committee on a temporary and rotating basis.
In her closing remarks Bynoe-Sutherland asked committee members to have patience with the process as they worked collectively towards improving the patient experience, and making the Queen Elizabeth Hospital the best place in the Caribbean to receive safe, patient-centred care.