‘A severe crisis’

‘A severe crisis’

Doctors paint ugly picture of challenges at Cornwall Regional Hospital

Senior staff reporter

Monday, August 24, 2020

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CORNWALL Regional Hospital (CRH), once considered the best in the western end of the island, is buckling under severe pressure stemming from its inability to accommodate the volume of patients it receives daily, according to doctors assigned there.

The doctors at the only Type A Hospital in that section of the island made the claim during a meeting two Fridays ago with the family of retired teacher Novelette Cooper who, after being admitted at the facility on July 27, was forced to sit on a chair for two days before allegedly toppling over and hitting her head. She was declared brain dead moments after the incident and died days later.

The Jamaica Observer first reported the tragedy in its August 6 edition.

Doctors, in a recording of the meeting obtained by the Observer, said while Cooper’s death was a tragedy, more patients admitted will be forced to sit on chairs as the St James hospital faces “a severe crisis”.

When contacted for comment, the hospital’s Chief Executive Officer Charmaine Beckford, who was also present at the meeting, initially denied that this was stated.

However, she later said that she did not recall that that was said. At the same time, she admitted that the hospital — which the Government has expended more than $3.5 billion to rehabilitate, according to the Jamaica Information Service — had reached its capacity and that patients are being asked to sit on chairs until bed space becomes available.

During the meeting, which lasted just under an hour, the doctors admitted that Cooper, who had gone to the hospital because of an asthma attack, was placed in a section with people of unsound mind because there was neither floor space nor bed space. They also said that section of the hospital was left unsupervised at the time of the incident.

Cooper, the doctors added, fell unconscious after being treated, which resulted in her reportedly falling from the chair. It however remains unclear how long Cooper remained on the floor before she was found because none of CRH’s staff witnessed the fall.

At that time, they said another critically ill patient was removed from a bed to facilitate the brain-dead woman who was manually intubated because there was no available ventilator.

“I have to apologise to you and especially about the chair. It is a problem that the hospital has. We do have cases that take priority, but the issue is with the bed. The situation is bad and we can’t put patients on the floor because that would again be bad publicity,” one of the doctors was heard saying on the recording.

“It is an awful situation here. The question is asked how was a bed found once she fell. Sometimes you have a situation where you take off a patient and put them in a chair to put someone else there and you tell them you have to do it and you’re sorry. We do that daily here. We do that every day. We take patients out of bed and put in other patients daily and face the wrath of their relatives, but that’s a risk you have to take,” another doctor said, adding, “It’s the system; we can’t do anything about it.”

They told the family that the hospital is in need of at least 200 more bed spaces to serve the St James population and that of neighbouring parishes.

“We have beds; we have a lot of beds at the warehouse, but where to put them? That is our problem. If we put them under tents outside, that is another bad story. The tent is hot and will kill patients faster, and the bathrooms are portable so that is not feasible. So we are stuck in a crisis which we are aware of. We are having a real crisis here. We are stuck between a rock and a hard place,” the second doctor told the family.

“The space is really tight, but the nurses are trying. Sometimes they leave to go somewhere, bump into each other and [after] apologising they forget where they were going. The nurses are moving around and doing what they can, so sometimes we have to ask other staff members to look at the persons who are on chairs for us. We’re going to have patients on chairs. This is not going to change because this is the reality. We don’t have space, plus the building is being rehabilitated so it’s just a crisis,” the doctor added.

The doctors again apologised to the family, noting that while Cooper, 54, received the best treatment available, her experience was less than ideal because of circumstances beyond their control.

The family, the Observer has learnt, has consulted an attorney with the intention to file a lawsuit against the hospital.

Cooper returned to the island only two years ago from The Bahamas to help care for her ailing mother.

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