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The number of elderly patients being left at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) has fallen significantly in recent weeks, which is welcomed news for the facility which spends $500 daily to accommodate each of those patients.
Health care officials reported this success as they gathered in the well of Parliament on Wednesday to field questions from members of the Lower House in the second week of the Estimates debate.
Concerns from St Thomas MP Cynthia Forde about the abandonment of senior citizens at the island’s sole public hospital prompted Minister of Health and Wellness Senator Dr the Most Honourable Jerome Walcott to report that a committee had been established in recent weeks to deal with the placement of “long-stay” elderly patients in alternative care.
Acting Director of Medical Services at the QEH Dr Chaynie Williams disclosed that as a result of the committee’s “aggressiveness with trying to coordinate their relocation to other services and other facilities”, the number of those patients had decreased “significantly”.
“We had at one time, within the last six months, as many as 40 persons within our institution, which is almost two wards. And that placed a significant burden on the throughput of patients coming from the emergency department; on occasion, it may have placed a halt to elective cases being done because we couldn’t admit patients from out of hospital to get services rendered if they needed a bed following their services.
“We have today about nine elderly for care – those are older than 65. We have six persons awaiting placement, whether it is in the alternative care programme or back home in their communities. So that’s 15 persons who we consider long-stay, just awaiting placement [who] have social unfortunate circumstances,” Dr Williams said.
Noting that some patients can spend months at the hospital waiting for placement, she said the QEH was working in conjunction with the Ministry of Health to find appropriate alternative facilities for them.
Earlier, Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Wellness with responsibility for the QEH Dr Sonia Browne said it was very expensive to accommodate those individuals while they await placement.
“I think the public needs to know that the cost of the hospital right now is upwards of $500 per day, which is more than a hotel, to accommodate the elderly in terms of feeding and diaper changes, etcetera, and if they happen to need any medical care,” she disclosed.
Dr Browne said it was therefore important to educate the public and make them aware of resources other than the QEH that could be utilised to get assistance for the elderly.
“A lot of them do not know where to go, but as the Honourable Minister said, there are plans in the near future to see what we can do,” she said.
Article first published by Barbados Today : March 2nd, 2023