A year ago, I made a detailed observation of the disparity and neglect at the Princess Alice Hospital (PAH) in Mirabeau, St Andrew. My analysis compared PAH’s inability to provide proper healthcare compared to the General Hospital, even though the PAH services a large cross-section of the population (almost half). I was able to capture the attention of the authorities, especially the Ministry of Health. In the commentary, I explained that a single ward at the General Hospital was by far better equipped, and managed, with a much better human resource at its disposal than that of the entire Princess Alice Hospital. Interestingly though, most governments in the past had ignored this situation and had never seriously tried to remedy the problem.
Today, I am pleased to report that my advocacy did not fall on deaf ears and ultimately got the attention of the relevant authorities, and now it appears finally, that healthcare in Grenada is heading in the right direction. In fact, at this juncture, I would like to thank the Hon. Nickolas Steele and the Hon. Delma Thomas for responding to the needs of the PAH. Indeed, this is rather comforting since some Ministers in the past have ignored the wishes of the masses and turned a blind eye to such objective and constructive criticisms. My advocacy got the attention of Grenadians in the diaspora who are now making significant contributions to the development of PAH. The implementation of a proper health system will certainly bring significant benefits to Grenadians and will eventually encourage retirees from abroad to return home bringing investments and foreign exchange on their return. Without a proper health system, retirees are more likely to remain abroad where they can access proper healthcare.
Credible sources indicate that the Minister of Health and the Minister responsible for the constituency responded to the call in an effort to alleviate the problems mentioned. Thereafter, both the Hon. Minister Nickolas Steele and the Hon. Delma Thomas visited the PAH seeking solutions to the problems. While the Hon. Nickolas Steele and his team meet with PAH management in an effort to improve the health facility; the Hon. Delma Thomas donated 8 beds (a much-needed resource) despite the Ministry of Health being out of her ministerial portfolio.
The meeting with health Minister and the PAH management team resulted in the formation of a policy that ensured the efficient running of the hospital thus making it better equipped to serve the rural Grenada. It is important to note that this is the first time that such policy was created and implemented in the interest of the PAH which will bring major benefits to the PAH and by extension rural Grenada.
With regards to the limited human resource which seriously hindered the smooth operations of the facility, additional nurses are now deployed 3 days a week to assist staff members. Most importantly, casualty being the busiest department has an additional 2 to 3 nurses 3 days per week, which is significant in addressing the staff shortage problem. Moreover, these additional nurses are deployed on specific days during the week when the hospital is at its busiest in an effort to provide a better service to its patrons in a timely manner.
Concerning the availability of medication provided by the PAH, there has been a significant improvement regarding its variety and consistency. In fact, it has been reported that never before had the dispensing of medications been so consistent. In the past, it wasn’t unusual to encounter a scarcity of much-needed medication. Furthermore, new types of medications were added to the already existing list to provide a better service and with more variety to patients. In essence, where particular medication could not have been administered to patients due to patients being allergic to them, alternative medications can now be used due to the availability of a wider variety as the hospital sought to enhance its capability where medication is concerned.
Importantly, concerning the diagnostic services at the PAH, the PAH is now equipped with a state of the art X-Ray unit with a digitised system — thanks to the Reynold and Nadia Benjamin Medical Foundation Inc. which played a critical role in making this a possibility. The Reynold and Nadia Benjamin Medical Foundation Inc. was assisted by Grenlec and the Government of Grenada. Due to the sophistication of the X-Ray unit, results are achievable much faster than even the General Hospital. With this system in place, once X-Raying of the patient is complete, images can be viewed within five minutes. This allows the radiologist to check images and give feedback within a reasonable time. Also, computers are available on wards at the General Hospital where images are sent from the PAH electronically allowing doctors, technicians and nurses to analyse images within minutes making diagnosing easier, faster and more efficient. According to Mrs Nadia Benjamin at the opening ceremony of the X-Ray unit at the Princess Alice Hospital, ‘I feel blessed in knowing that at least together, we have provided a means of early detection and hopefully early treatment, thereby avoiding untimely deaths.’
Furthermore, in addition to the X-Ray machine mentioned above, the PAH is also equipped with a modern ultrasound machine which further enhances the service it now provides, improving its potential to provide proper health care to rural Grenada. In fact, Ultrasounds which were done at the Spice Isle Imaging Centre Inc. and other private health facilities around the island are now being done at the PAH at reasonable and affordable prices. In other words, our rural citizens will now be able to save time and money since in the past patients would travel long distances to St Georges to do such. Indeed, the introduction of the X-Ray machine and the ultrasound machine no doubt has lifted the standard of healthcare in rural Grenada and by extension Grenada in general, significantly.
Also, to enhance the services even further the PAH is now equipped with a backup generator, and despite such equipment having existed in the past, for the most part, it was non-functional. That has been rectified and will no longer hinder the normal functioning of the PAH when there is an electricity failure.
Also, plans are in the making to refurbish the PAH which will focus on modernising and developing the infrastructure of the health facility thus making the conditions more comfortable and conducive for doctors, nurses and patients to operate. Furthermore, plans are already in place to conduct minor surgeries at the PAH. In fact, already there are specialist doctors visiting the PAH on certain days during the week attending to patients who need special attention and care.
Nationally, the government is in the embryonic stage of developing a National Health Insurance (NHI) which will bring significant benefits to the entire country. This move will certainly be of great assistance to the poor and vulnerable who find it difficult to pay for proper healthcare. Also, this will encourage the private health facilities to modernise and uplift their standard since more patients will be able to afford their private facility through NHI. Having a proper national health insurance will certainly uplift the standard of health care in general which will bring major benefits to our citizens at the most crucial time.
Moreover, data on patient’s medical history are now compiled on the computer data system which will enable doctors and nurses to monitor a patient’s progress and medical history where necessary. In essence, this will benefit the medical practitioners since relevant information about every patient will be at their fingertip which will be critical in prescribing medication and monitoring of patients.
In conclusion, a lot has been done to improve healthcare at the PAH recently, and the guessing game regarding diagnosis has certainly significantly diminished. There is no doubt that health is now heading in the right direction. However, there is still room for improvement. Despite the additional staff more is still needed to provide a proper effective and efficient health service to rural Grenada. For example, specialist doctor’s visits must also include patients on the wards, and laboratories should be considered for rudimentary testing. Also, the rehabilitation department should be functional for patients who need physical therapy for recovery.