Has it come to this in Barbados? Dialysis patients turned away due to shortage of needles, gloves, standard supplies

THERE IS a shortage of supplies in the dialysis unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

And patients who rely on the unit’s blood purifying service fear their lives may be on the line.

“[The hospital] is short of equipment and people are literally afraid for their lives,” said a patient who spoke under anonymity.

Gloves, needles, and other items were needed, said the patient who added that waiting periods for dialysis treatment had lengthened.

“Some patients have had to wait for four or five days for treatment, and others were even turned back.”

… from the Nation story Dialysis Problem

A legacy of neglect and wrong priorities by successive Barbados governments

Surgical-gloves-BarbadosI wonder if politicians, civil servants and administrators in Barbados really get the fundamentals of their jobs. Hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear of another crisis or emergency that is simply the result of poor management, out and out neglect or irresponsible prioritisation. Or no prioritisation.

As an example, our “leadership” – both BLP and DLP – thought it was a wonderful idea to go into debt to the tune of half a billion dollars or more to host Cricket World Cup. Oh yes, it was under a BLP administration but Thompson and the DLP went along all the way with the CWC plans even to the point of voting to change the Constitution on a whim one afternoon. (“Oh bye the way” said the BLP,we’d like to change the Constitution this afternoon.The reply from Thompson’s DLP was “No problem, can we be outta here by three?”)

We’re still waiting for the seven hundred yachts to show up for the games as then Tourism Minister Noel “Instant Millionaire” Lynch predicted.

Oh sure, we can set up Community Councils to distribute the biscuits and beef to the party faithful – but you want water in the pipes so factories don’t burn down? Ha! Water in the pipes for firefighting would cut into the biscuits doan ya know?

“Oh… we’re a hundred police officers short and we can’t hire enough qualified candidates because we pay garbage truck drivers more than police officers? That’s too bad. We better lower our hiring standards then” say the politicians.

And so it has been for twenty or more years in Barbados. Our government Ministers drive nice shiny cars and four by fours while our firefighters beg and scrape for 20-year-old used equipment from New York City. Some of our police officers are barely literate. Ya get wat ya pay for, folks!

Lots of money for bread and circuses at Crop Over, but our nurses lack surgical gloves, needles and other supplies to look after the dialysis patients that must have treatment or die.

And speaking of a shortage of surgical gloves, it was two years ago that a reader sent us the following story about the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Nothing has changed…

Dear Friends At Barbados Free Press,

My son almost died at QEH this year. I won’t give you the details because I don’t want any reprisals for writing you with the story of his “medical treatment” at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Please edit my letter and change the words so no one knows it is me that wrote to you. (editor’s note: done)

Every day I or one of the family stayed with my son and kept him clean and brought him food. This was necessary because of the lack of food, bad food when it came IF it came and the lack of trained nurses and supplies. Especially supplies.

None of the ward toilets where my son was had paper, none had soap or paper towels for drying. Everyone must bring their own.

I had to buy “Intrasite gel” for my son’s wounds because the hospital had none that they could give me after 3 days. This was $20 a bottle and it only lasted a few days because I and my friends ended up changing the dressings ourselves when we found they were not being changed enough. I had to buy a box of sterile gloves to change his dressings. I bought a small package at first but the nurses kept “borrowing” the gloves because they were short of gloves so I bought a box…

… from Your Child Is Sick: Welcome To Barbados Queen Elizabeth Hospital

The government finds plenty of money on this island to look after the “sexy” causes and the showy “look wat we do for you!” press announcements where all the politicians stand around looking like the people just can’t live without them – but when it comes to needles for children who need dialysis, gloves for the nurses or radios, treatment for cancer patients and hoses for the firefighters, well, “We short a money. It’s the world economy, doan ya know!”

Did you hear the one about the QEH patients being issued brass bells? You just have to shake your head…

Barbados Government Triumph: Little Brass Bells Issued To Bedridden Hospital Patients!


Filed under Barbados, Health, Political Corruption, Politics, Politics & Corruption

31 responses to “Has it come to this in Barbados? Dialysis patients turned away due to shortage of needles, gloves, standard supplies

  1. PiedPiper

    This is truly pathetic. Has the QEH digressed to the state of a hospital in Haiti? It is just another example of how government cares nothing for the ordinary Bajan. As long as the elite can go to Bayview Private Hospital or take the plane to Miami, they do not give one s(#@$. What do Bajans pay their taxes for? If the government has neither the will nor the money to improve conditions at QEH, then private organizations in Barbados should be seeking charitable donations from other countries. I have no doubt that if international charities were aware of the problems at the hospital, they would be more than happy to send down the much needed supplies.

  2. BFP

    So how much did we spend for our New York City diplomatic mission? Does anyone know?

    We should have spent US$20,000 less and bought rubber gloves for the next year at the QEH.

  3. Laugh or Cry?

    The DLP should have put on a smaller annual conference and given the difference in money to the QEH for surgical supplies.

  4. Blessed With Common Sense

    It concerns me that the commentary on this site has fallen to this level of nitpicking. I am horrified to hear about short fall supplies at the QEH but I don’t see how an administration which has made several corrections to Hospital plant and procedures can be vilfied for this problem.

    Everyone here knows the problem exsists but how many people asked their company to make a charitable donation to assist. Or good forbid that an individual take the initiative and donate some part thereof of the needed supplies.

    Barbados has always been a very progressive country but I cannot express how tired I am of people who can always find a problem but never work toward a solution. I look forward to the day when that can change.

  5. Jason

    Half a billion for a failed Cricket World Cup disaster. Insufficient fire equipment so a factory burns down. Dialysis patients sent home for four days without treatment because of no Fu**ing rubber gloves for the nurses AND YOU CALL THAT “NITPICKING”!!!!

    There would be rubber gloves if Thompson’s daughters needed dialysis!

  6. PiedPiper

    Nitpicking? The reason why citizens elect governments and then give their tax dollars to that government is so the government can govern! You want to place the onus on private companies and citizens rather than make your government accountable? WTF?

  7. Anonymous

    The big problem with government is that there is no rational system to determine what the priorities should be.

    The Minister of Finance simply allocates money to whatever programmes he feels like.

    A powerful minister might get a few things for his/her ministry, but in general the Minister of Finance decides on the funding to be given.

    If cricket is seen as more important than health, then cricket will get the funds.

    There are better ways to spend our money, but we as a people do not demand change.

    We like leaders who are autocratic and wise. It worked well with Adams(1) and Barrow. I am not so certain that it has worked that well since Barrow. I do not know of the wisdom of some of our more recent leaders.

    The wise leader has the interest of the masses foremost in his/her mind and not the interest of himself and a few friends.

    It is time that we rely on a system that includes the participation of more persons in the decision making process. It is unlikely that cricket would be preferred to a hospital if a broad range of views were obtained before a decision was made.

  8. cq8

    This “blessed with common sense” person and people like him/her are the reason why we can’t progress. It is always some excuse or “what can you do?” attitude that comes from these people.

    I’ve got news: the shortage of supplies is not an “act of God”. It didn’t “just happen” like a storm coming from the sky. It is the fault of some person or persons who screwed up when budgeting or when called upon to decide how our tax dollars should be spent.

    If the PM’s family needed dialysis they would have their own machine at home.

  9. That generally happens when you give over X to the state. First, the state will treat X as a cost centre like everything else. Second, it drives down charitable efforts (“why should I donate? I already paid in taxes for the same thing”). Third, it becomes a patronage trough for politically-connected incompetents. Add all that together and you will get a lack of basics where it counts.

    I’m not saying that a national health system is always bad. My first two points aren’t too much of a problem, and the third won’t apply at all, if the community as a whole is cohesive and ethically straight. Usually that happens in small communities and homogenous communities, and Barbados is both.

    If it is failing even in Barbados, though, imagine the mess if the whole of America had this system…

  10. 2009

    This a sad state of affairs and as an ardent supporter of the DLP……the QEH was one of the main sore points that the DLP chided the BLP gov’t on.

    I really think that after 20 months in office the procedural and system ineffeciencies that plague /are plaguing the QEH should have been addressed.

    What the continuance of this issue tells me……is that no valiant attempt is being made to address the problem.

    Cosmetic approaches to such issues will not suffice.

    We must speak up……the very ones who are called upon to bear the brunt of the taxes for efficient service delivery…..are the very same ones having to be faced with the poor services.

    Just not good.

  11. kiki

    Western countries throw away good medical supplies when they near the expiry date, (these could be passed on for free).

  12. Hants

    Whether you want to admit it or not Barbados is being clobbered by the world wide recession.

    Never mind the bovine excrement coming from the “economic experts”.

    Your only hope is to work as hard as you can and focus on the survival of you and your family.

    Barbados had years of “prosperity???” under the BLP based primarily on a continuous building boom fueled by foreign money with Tourism and offshore banking keeping the cash flowing.

    Recession come and play done.

    Hard times hit we.

    It will be years before this recession ends.

  13. cq8

    Hants, then the politicians will have to learn to spend money on rubber gloves instead of Crop Over. On fire fighting equipment instead of new embassies. On garbage and sewerage disposal instead of giving away tens of millions of dollars to Clico because the “great leaders” of that business had feet of clay.

    We only have so much money after our massive debt is serviced and that means making do and sorting out the priorities.

    Dialysis is a priority and it doesn’t matter how the economy of the world is doing it is still a priority.

    Those who suggest we beg for handouts from other nations are the ones who made us a beggar nation in the first place with their waste and thefts.

  14. PiedPiper

    Hants, somebody needs to take off those rose-tinted glasses of yours. The QEH was already in a complete state of disrepair before the recession started.

  15. reality check

    As an ardent supporter of the BLP 2009, could you tell us what the BLP has done to clean house and fight every day for ITAL and accountability since Jan 2008.

    Don’t criticize the failings of the DLP which are coming to be more of the same, unless you have a game plan that is going to work to right the excesses, incompetencies and “tiefing” of the past.

    Its either a real action plan or more hot air.

    Opposition members need to be seen daily as championing wholesale changes in the rights of the individual and not merely positioning themselves as the next pigs at the trough.

  16. Green Monkey

    There would be rubber gloves if Thompson’s daughters needed dialysis!

    Of that you could be certain.

  17. Hants

    My glasses are photogrey.

    I was at the QEH a couple years ago and yes it needs a lot of work but it certainly is NOT in a complete state of disrepair.

    Shortages of supplies and equipment is a direct result of the difficult economic times we are in right now.

    Reality bites.

  18. Realistic

    Have anyone given thought, could we be sure that the professionals at the QEH are not taking the supplies to their private clinics to use on their patients who pay them big bucks for their dialysis treatments?

    We need to look beyond the QEH, if some of these private clinics were raided, we’ll be surprise what and how much is found. Moreover there would not be a scintilla of accounts payable records to show proof of supplies purchased.

  19. LIME Layoffs

    Quite right Jason, this country putting money in the wrong places

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  21. yatinkiteasy

    Anyone seen the fantastic Judicial Centre in town…hell it looks like the Vatican or something. Makes QEH look like a shanty town building. Where are our priorities? Now our wigged friends can try people for shoplifting a bottle of vicks from Collins Ltds Ltd or Woolworth in air conditioned luxury, complete with large flat screen videos displays…
    Meanwhile..don`t arrive at QEH in a two hour long delayed ambulance and expect any help at A&E in anything under six hours!
    Captain..the ship is sinking!

  22. Johnny Postle @

    The most sickening piece of governance ever to show its ugly head in this country is the type of representation we get from these elected leaders. Our leaders seems to think that health care in Barbados is external and not internal. Why? Most politicians have hoarded enough money to go abroad to tend to their needs.

    The QEH is horrible and I get the impression that the doctors (not all) are only interested in amputations (good money for cutting off a leg) and misdiagnosis (done to get you into their private practice). THere are stories in the QEH that would make a small head grow big. But thinking of taking an action suit against the QEH, it would be better to keep your money and fix your love ones or your own health privately.

    The health of a nation should come first before any other wasted and over priced project. Funny how it has taken successive governments eons to realise our diminishing health care system but with Kensington redevelopment, road improvement project, GEMs and the pumping of millions into BTI ( I can hear the first NOEL and all the crooks now rich beyond their wildest dreams) decisions were swift and pushed through without sparing a thought. Absolutely pathetic.

    Politicians should be arrested for gross negligence and mismanagement. I am glad though that alot of them are being exposed.

  23. victor

    It’s horribIe and distressing that Barbados seems to be turning into some kind of corrupt African state, corrrupt, for the rich aIone and dissoIving in front of our very eyes. There is no proper ruIe of Iaw, unfairness to the poverty stricken, saIe of our Iands for bucks, turning into a kind of Haiiti. Who can stop this rot? You cannot depend on your party of choice, they are aII at the trough. other countries have stricter ruIes and reguIations eg Freedom of Info, Money Iaundering, but we have nothing, just a sick free ride for those in power, never mind the poor Joe PubIic. WiII this stop and if so how?? PeopIe couId rebeI to fight this corruption but it couId so easiIy turn into yet another African-type confIagration. Ruin the reputation of Barbados, we are heading there.

  24. Anonymous

    We can have an elaborate ceremony to rename a roundabout but cannot find funds for supplies to keep persons alive with dialysis.
    really pathetic!!!!

  25. Sundowner

    Amazing isn’t it?
    We have wonderful new complex in St Joseph for Police Station/Court?Post Office & Library, I’ve only been in the Post Office & was very impressed, its huge!! but do we need such a huge building? the old one was manned by the ‘Post Master’ who spent most of his time checking Lottery tickets & another ‘teller’, now we have two ‘tellers’ & the Post Master has his own private room (to check his Lottery tickets in private we assume without all those annoying interruptions from the public!!)
    The whole complex is lit up like Sandy Lane at night (really glad I don’t live next to that, though you wouldn’t need outside lights so may save on your own light bills!) the old Post Office, lights on all night of course, is manned every night by a security guard, for what? I’m not sure if there is a security guard in the old Police station as well, surely the sensible thing to do is to sell these empty buildings as they are, so we, the tax payers, are not paying for the upkeep, & some much needed money can be raised, not a lot to make a huge difference, but surely not a ‘lot’ is needed to keep the hospital supplied with needles & gloves.
    This Government really has its priorities in the wrong place.

  26. J

    Johnny Postle wrote “The QEH is horrible and I get the impression that the doctors (not all) are only interested in amputations (good money for cutting off a leg)”

    In fact most amputations at the QEH are done on elderly, poor diabetics. The doctors are not paid for each leg amputated.

    What we need better that anything else is better health education.

    You would be surprised how many people end up on dialysis because they have not taken their hypertension medication (sometimes because they were told by some fundamentalist Christian nut God had healed their high blood pressure )

    He had not.

    Or did not even know that they had high blood pressure.

    Or ate too much high sodium food.

    Or never exercised.

    Or drank too much.

    Or smoked too much.

    Or never drank enough water. And by the way do the employers of outdoor workers provide a minimum of half a pint of cool water every half hour as that is what a human body needs to work safely in this heat.

    I have know a number of dialysis patients and only 1 had a genetic disorder. All the rest had lifestyle induced kidney failure.

    So yes even though we have a responsibility to treat those who have already suffered kidney failure, we have an even greater responsibility to PREVENT more kidney failures from happening.

  27. The reality is that Barbadians have come to expect international best practice standards totally free of cost, whilst Government has serious limitations on the amount of funds available. The most complex surgeries such as open heart surgery, coupled with treatment like dialysis are not cheap and cannot be gotten in most developed countries for free. The unavailability of some supplies in the AKU dept of QEH was not due to a lack of funds. It was due to a proper coordination between the Procurement, AKU and Finance Dept.

    I am very familiar with the issues. Furthermore, there was no compromising on the health of the patients on dialysis. The nepthologist took the decision to reduce the number of dialysis from 3 to 2 per week. Once patients eat the right foods and do the other things that doctor orders, there was no risk to patients.

    Furthermore, at a cost of $52,000 per patient per year, and with the space constraint; one can appreciate the miracles at the QEH. Would someone tell us about the immigrants who have contributed no taxes to this economy but get dialysis for free; or the Bajans who have lived abroad all of their lives and because they cannot afford dialysis in the US move back to Barbados to get it.

    I am satisfied that this Government is taking health seriously, and I agree with the policies announced by the Minister to date. He walks the place regularly and see for himself what is happening. Unlike others, he is not a snob, and can be seen hanging around talking with all and sundry, trying to understand what is happening.

    The electrical upgrades, refurbished cafeteria, upgraded doctors lounge, additional posts, two new ambulances, a new cardiac suite, getting MICU and NICU suites back in operation are a few of the facts under this new Minister of Health and DLP Government. Staff at all levels are respected and embraced. Patient care is becoming the priority. Barbados’ healthcare system is not perfect, but it certainly is good. We just need to take our own health a lot more seriously and pay more taxes towards healthcare.

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