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Statement : Recent Long Waits In AED

Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Wellness Dr. Sonia Browne

Over the weekend there’s been a surge in the number of patients presenting to the Accident and Emergency Department for treatment, resulting in many complaints about long waiting times in recent days. I first want to sincerely apologise to those people who have experienced long wait times in AED and those with whom we have failed to communicate in a timely manner during their stay.

This is an issue to which I have given priority and QEH management has been tasked to improve the lines of communication between our AED medical teams and the patients in their care. A check this afternoon revealed the longest wait time in the department is regrettably 30 hours and it’s on this note that we want to remind the public about the triage system, which was introduced to improve patient flow in Accident and Emergency.

Let me explain: the triage system comprises five categories which determines the order in which patients are seen and treated. Patients in categories one and two are considered high priority and given immediate medical attention. These include patients who for example, have life, limb or sight threatening complaints, gunshot wounds, heart attacks, active seizure activity or a patient who needs resuscitation. Category 3 patients include those with chest and abdominal pain who need urgent care and treatment at the hospital. Category 4 patients are considered less urgent and may only be asked to stay at the hospital for specific investigations. Their conditions can vary from vomiting and diarrhea to a fracture. It may also include Acid reflux or urinary catheter related complaints. When an individual falls into Category 5, for example patients with centipede stings, those who present for routine catheter changes or with mild flu-like symptoms, may be referred by the triage nurse to a polyclinic or a private physician for medical attention, as these cases do not necessarily require treatment at hospital.

As minister responsible for the hospital, I will continue to work with the entire AED healthcare team to improve waiting times and by extension care for patients in the Accident and Emergency Department.

On a positive note, Phase Three of the AED expansion plan is underway. The electrical infrastructure to support the upgrade was done over the weekend and this final phase of the build is expected to be complete by year-end. That will allow for an increase in the number of beds available in the department from 27 to 40. This means more space for patients to be seen and treated. Delays in providing CT Scan results have also been a factor that have led to an increase in waiting times in the department. The good news is the QEH has acquired an additional CT Scan machine which is on island and will be operational soon. This will help to reduce the wait time for test results and by extension waiting time in AED.

We continue to have a problem where elderly patients who are fit for discharge but due to various social circumstances cannot return home. They remain in our care and await placement through the Alternative Care of the Elderly Programme or at the Geriatric Hospital. This, however, puts a strain on bed availability, which also adds to the wait times in AED. We appeal to the general public to please make alternative arrangements for relatives wherever possible to assists us as we make every effort to improve bed availability throughout the hospital.

From time-to-time emergency departments here in Barbados and in other jurisdictions experience surges in the number of people coming to AED. During these periods we kindly ask that you be patient as we aim to keep you informed when these situations arise. I remain appreciative of your understanding as we work to improve our hospital.

– Hon. Dr. Sonia Browne (MP), Minister of Heath (Ag)

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