“Help, I’m Stuck In A&E!”

Twitter was H O T this week. So I was pretty glad that I didn’t already have a scheduled post to put out. Of course, the public health system was again being criticised for long wait times and so on- nothing new. What did come up was people going to the accidents and emergency department unnecessarily.

You see, at first I was going to make one of those tips posts that helps Jamaicans know when to go to the clinic versus when to go to the hospital… but here’s the thing you guys already know. One of my old residents pointed out to me that it has a lot to do with lack of resources in clinics as well as Jamaicans belief that you’ll get through faster in the hospital.

In general, people know that the accident and emergency department is for acute problems. Trauma, chest pain, sudden limb pain and so on. They also know that if they’ve had a problem for a prolonged period of time that that issue is to be seen in the clinic. My personal belief is that persons who come with non-emergent issues should be told right away at triage that they will not be seen and they are to go to a primary health care physician.

All these complaints about long waiting times and not being seen tend to leave out the primary reason why the patient went to accidents and emergency. The department uses a triaging system and if you’re at the bottom of the list there’s a longer waiting time… a lot of times those issues can be seen in clinic. So the next time you need to change your dressing- go to the clinic. Keep having migraines? Go to the clinic. Have the cold? Go to the clinic… and so on.

There’s a bigger issue however, we simply do not have the resources. If clinics were better stocked and equipped they could manage many cases that come to A&E. Persons who go to the hospital for non- emergent issues don’t realise that they’re wasting everyone’s time including their own. So not only are you left waiting for hours but you also clog up the system and having others wait as well.

The situation is not black and white, and needs a better solution than triage doctors turning away people. We must call on our government representatives to take fiscal action in an effort to improve both primary and secondary healthcare. I urge those of you who are quick to speak poorly about our public hospitals and those who work in them, to access the situation critically first. Our hospitals (and clinics) are terribly understaffed and under resourced, staff members are forced to be inventors and their creativity will shock you. Our public healthcare system needs work, but blaming those who work in it for its short comings is missing the target. Most of our health facilities have not been upgraded size wise since they have been in existence- but you know what does keep growing? Our population. Quick maths will tell you that a 50-70 capacity bed hospital cannot continue serving a population that went from a few thousands to hundreds of thousands.

In the end. We need expansion. We need optimisation of clinics and hospitals. When we have a good primary healthcare service, secondary healthcare only improves. We can’t just fix this with a tips post, or a few ads. We need investment into healthcare, we need prioritisation of healthcare. Until then, our healthcare system will continue to be subpar.

Instead of blaming those who are stuck in the system, why not call on those who created it? If you really are concerned, call on your government officials to fight for our cause, because the medical fraternity has been fighting…

Samantha C. Johnson

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