Making a submission to a meeting of Parliament's Sessional Select Committee on Human Resources and Social Development at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, JMDA President Dr Dayton Campbell said while the association supported the intent behind the free health care policy it could not ignore the horror stories emanating from the system.
"There are stories coming out of Cornwall [Regional Hospital] literally of doctors falling to the floor in the middle of surgery; they are literally inside somebody's abdomen and falling to the floor because they have been up for the entire night operating and it's just inadequate staffing of the hospitals," he
told the committee.
"The staff is extremely overworked and underpaid, which does not leave a lot of room for motivation.
The workload is exhausting and equipment is lacking with ratios as bad as one nurse to 25-30 patients in some institutions.
This cannot be acceptable," he
, who said the association wanted it to be made "abundantly clear" that it was not attempting to shoot down the idea of the free health care policy, argued that a way should be found to improve the service as there was also discomfort among patients.
Dr Campbell, whose disclosure apparently did not find favour with Government committee members Franklyn Witter and Dr St Aubyn Bartlett, said as a result of the strain on the system there were limited supplies, with reports of patients being discharged with low haemoglobin levels because of the unavailability of transfusion sets and drugs, non-functioning radiologic machines, and CT-Scans among others.
In highlighting the lack of privacy and citing examples of patients sharing beds and being examined in the corridors by doctors because of spacing deficiencies, Dr Campbell
disputed the findings of a recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Health which showed some 75 per cent of persons saying they were impressed with the level of privacy.
"I am not sure we can give credit to that study because 104 persons is certainly not an adequate sample size to comment on something like this, because when in hospitals like KPH you have patients being seen in the corridors, I don't know how much privacy can be gained from that," said Dr Campbell
was taken to task by Witter and Bartlett for the comment.
The MPs contended that Dr Campbell
should provide the committee with information as to what existed in the system before the removal of the fees, leaving Campbell
to query whether the association had been invited to give its honest opinion or to take sides.
"A World Bank study on Nurse Labour and Education Markets in English-speaking Caricom countries released in 2009 shows that the annual attrition rate for nurses was eight per cent mainly to Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom; these are significant numbers we cannot ignore," Dr Campbell
also said the association was perturbed by the increasing reports of security breaches in health care facilities, ranging from physical to sexual assault of medical staff.
"We are demanding that something be done to alleviate this," Dr Campbell