Hospital bed shortage worsens

KINGSTON, Jamaica – A significant spike in the number of men being hospitalised has spawned an overcrowding nightmare at the Kingston Public Hospital, forcing officials of the nation’s premier health facility to admit men and women to the same ward.

In addition to the shift in sleeping arrangements, KPH officials have had to knock together makeshift beds for sick patients to sleep on the floor.

“There is an overcrowding problem, particularly among males. What we have found out since January 2009 is that we have a significant increase in the number of admissions, particularly male medicine patients,” said David Dobson, CEO of the hospital.

The situation at KPH was dire, Dobson revealed. “We did not have space to keep our patients, some were on stretchers. There was an evening, I was told, when one ward had to resort to that (putting mattresses on the floor). That was untenable to us. That’s not our standard of care so we quickly stepped in and we asked the Victoria Jubilee Hospital to contract so that we can move some of the (female) patients over there.”

Compounding the increase in the number of men being hospitalised is the fact that men account for the more severe cases admitted to the KPH.

“What is clear from our perspective of the data we have seen is that males tend to be more non-compliant. So, when they actually end up in hospital, they tend to be a little bad.”

During an undercover visit to the hospital last week Wednesday, our news team saw both men and women sharing Ward 3B, which is traditionally reserved for the females. The men occupied a section to the right, at the entrance to the ward, while the women used the other sections.

Dobson admitted that the recent increase in the number of men being admitted to the facility was the reason for admitting men to a ward reserved for women.

He said that males and females were not using the same bathroom, but medical personnel at the hospital claimed otherwise.

The CEO told The Gleaner his administration did not have a cure for the overcrowding at the hospital.

“We do not have a solution because we can’t turn back very ill people. We have to try our best to accommodate them and to treat them.”

Dobson is hoping that the increase will only be for a season. He argued that it was not unusual to see a spike in the number of patients being admitted shortly after the indulgences of the festive season in December.

Health Minister Rudyard Spencer did not respond to messages left on his mobile phones, while Grace Allen-Young, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Environment, did not return calls. Also, the ministry’s public relations department did not respond to questions sent via email yesterday.

KPH has six wards reserved for admitting internal medicine patients. Each ward has 32 beds, which gives a total of 192 beds.

Half of the 192 beds on the medicine block are reserved for male medicine patients.

An additional female ward, with 25 beds, was created adjacent to the medicine block to ease the overcrowding.

Medicine patients are those persons with serious conditions, such as hypertension and diabetes.

About 54 per cent of all admissions at KPH are internal medicine patients.