Heart attack in Barbados – tourist praises Pirate’s Inn staff, ambulance crew – slams Queen Elizabeth Hospital

What happens when a tourist has a heart attack at a Barbados hotel?

Having a heart attack must be a frightening experience, and it is probably all the more frightening when it happens in a hotel thousands of miles from home and far from friends, family and your own doctor.

That’s what recently happened to a Canadian tourist to Barbados, who fortunately had a happy ending to a bad situation. ‘Will-Sandy’ tells of his (her?) experience in several postings on the TripAdvisor Barbados message board where others have been quick to join the discussion and recount their own medical emergency experiences in Barbados and elsewhere. Their extensive discussions make for some interesting reading by tourists and Bajans alike. It is always fascinating to see how others view Barbados. Hopefully the Barbados Tourism Authority and Misery Ministry of Health also pays attention to these discussions.

“Pirates Inn the staff was fantastic, so professional and knew what to do, when the Ambulance arrived they where also very professional and reassuring…”

Canadian tourist and heart attack victim ‘Will-Sandy’ on TripAdvisor posting Note of Caution – Barbados

Tourist heart attack victim waits 12 hours to see doctor at Queen Elizabeth Hospital

To read Will-Sandy’s account is to be at the same time proud of how the Pirate’s Inn and ambulance staff looked after a guest to our shores, but ashamed of what happened to the tourist after they arrived at our largest medical facility.

According to the heart attack victim, the Triage Nurse did not know what a stent was.

That simple fact should cause all readers to pause for a second: the Triage Nurse in our largest medical facility didn’t know what a stent was. I know what a stent is and I’m a mechanic, not a medical professional. Question: does the QEH still employ nurses from Nigeria? Just asking!

Then the heart attack victim waited 12 hours to see a doctor.

There is another statement that should make you pause – a tourist in the middle of having a heart attack had to wait 12 hours before seeing a doctor. That is disgusting, outrageous and completely unacceptable by any standard. But that is what happened to this tourist visiting Barbados, and some of the other medical emergency stories on the TripAdvisor website tell similar tales of experiences in Barbados.

The Barbados brand and tourism-based economy cannot thrive and survive when such stories become commonplace on the internet. No longer can Barbados insure our brand reputation simply by inviting a bunch of journalists for freebie trips every winter. We must walk the walk and upgrade the tourism experience because increasingly travelers are able to use the internet to discover the differences between hype and reality when they are choosing their next vacation destination.

Further Reading

Pirate’s Inn website

June 11, 2010: Typical toilet, Barbados Queen Elizabeth Hospital

August 27, 2009: Has it come to this in Barbados? Dialysis patients turned away due to shortage of needles, gloves, standard supplies

September 19, 2007: Your Child Is Sick: Welcome To Barbados Queen Elizabeth Hospital


Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Health

31 responses to “Heart attack in Barbados – tourist praises Pirate’s Inn staff, ambulance crew – slams Queen Elizabeth Hospital

  1. Jrjrjrjr

    Locals and tourists alike should be treated quickly. Hope they sacked that nurse

  2. Green Monkey

    Hour and a half wait for an ambulance response to an emergency on the Crane Beach.

    About a week ago a Canadian visitor staying at the Crane hotel recounted to me how earlier that afternoon a man got slammed head first into the sand by a wave and had to be dragged out of the sea unconscious. He was laid out on the sand while an ambulance was called. In the meantime it was noticed the tide was rising so bystanders including this witness were working frantically to pile sand up as a dyke around the man so the sea wouldn’t wash over him as he lay flat on the sand and they waited for the ambulance to arrive. (Since there was a distinct possibility of a spinal cord industry no one wanted to have to move the victim anymore than necessary until the ambulance crew got there.)

    People were really getting worried as the tide kept rising and no ambulance arrived on the scene and they continued their efforts to pile up sand and to try to channel the water away. Finally the ambulance crew arrived on site, but it took an hour and a half for them to get there. The victim was taken away lapsing in and out of consciousness. The witness didn’t know for sure if the ambulance, when it got there, was a private ambulance or an ambulance from the QE.

  3. Green Monkey

    One further comment to the above post about the emergency at the Crane. This occurred on a Sunday afternoon, so it was not like the ambulance could have got caught up in traffic.

  4. 116

    There should be ambulances stationed in strategic locations around the country.

  5. Green Monkey

    Also had an elderly Bajan lady recently tell me how she was taken by her relatives to the QE emergency in the morning and then had to wait a full day just to talk to a nurse (I assume the triage nurse) and was then sent back to sit in the waiting room overnight before she finally saw a doctor the next morning. The doctor’s diagnosis was that the symptoms causing the visit to emergency in the first place were the result of a mild heart attack.

  6. robert ross

    This one is rather odd in some ways, not in others. And I suppose I can speak with some authority since I have been through this experience twice over 13 years.

    1. If the visitor was taken as a blue light job to Accident and Emergency in the normal course he would have been treated immediately and then transferred to Intensive Care and from there to the general wards.

    2. If not as a blue light job but as a general admission then I can confirm the waiting period, the red tape, the security people who act as admitting (clerical) staff. Dreadful.

    3. In my (first) case, 13 years ago, the ambulance came very quickly.

    4. In the second case, very recently, my wife, on my instructions, called the Sparman Clinic and that private ambulance came in 15 minutes at 2.30am to the middle of the island. I was later transferred from the clinic to the QEH because Dr Sparman was not on the Island. At QEH, I was treated immediately and was seen very promptly by two doctors. All standard procedures were carried out. The nursing staff in Intensive Care were marvellous.

    5. In the first experience there was a nurse who was foggy about some procedure or other in A&E.

    6. From the way the visitor writes it rather sounds to me as if he was suffering some level of chest pain not necessarily consistent with a full blown heart attack and that he was initially treated outside of A&E. He makes no mention of his (general) nursing treatment or of having been admitted to a ward of any kind… j

    @ BFP

    Why are you knocking Nigerian nursing staff?

  7. robert ross

    @ Green Monkey

    Your anecdotal evidence is, in fact, consistent with what I was just saying. I suspect the visitor and your lady were not admitted as stretcher jobs – in which case, yes, the waiting is abysmal. I suppose they have to prioritise. Thus if you arrive with blood pouring from a cut you need to be treated immediately. If you arrive on your feet complaining of some mild chest pain the priority is not self-evidently high. Meanwhile they watch to see if you’ll fall over (lol).

  8. robert ross

    The inability to understand the word ‘stent’ is odd. BUT I’m not clear why the patient would have needed one at the early stage. In common parlance, is this simply another word for a ‘drip’? And was this the source of the confusion?

  9. rastaman

    Oh dear me another plug for Sparman!!!!

  10. robert ross

    @ Rasta

    Is that bad? LOL

  11. Wily Coyote

    When visiting THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES like Barbados this is the kind of medical treatment you can expect. Barbados claims to be very advanced both socially and technically, however it’s from what perspective the ADVANCED definition is derived.

    Remember Barbados is United Nations Classified as Third World Underdeveloped. This classification is based on the country’s comparison to other world countries and their existing infrastructures. If your from USA, Germany, France, Canada etc. you have certain infrastructure expectations, Somalia, Yemen on the other hand have different expectations. A Somalian would no doubt be impressed with Barbados infrastructure, however an individual from northern Europe, USA, Canada would not be overly impressed.

    It’s all about perspective and what your expectations of the infrastructure.

  12. Newbie

    I often wonder how the ER staff at the QEH live with themselves. How do they feel waking up, looking in the mirror and knowing that they have been partially responsible for the deaths of patients who walk thru the QEH while they were on duty?

    I also wonder do they, the staff and family members, have insurance coverage that allows them to go to a private medical institution for medical care/services if and when they take sick and need emergency care like most of the people that walk thru QEH doors complaining of symptoms that could lead to death if not treated within a short time frame of entry.

    It’s shameful! Barbados professionals, in most if not all categories, are making the country get a negative rap, not only at home but around the world. Bad news waste no time in spreading, I’ve become a bajan to the bone but for convenience only.

  13. St George's Dragon

    @ Robert Ross
    I am glad you had a good experience with Sparman. I am not sure I would want to be treated by someone with his history.
    See https://barbadosfreepress.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/the-sparman-affair-we-print-dr-ishmaels-letter-for-which-he-was-suspended-and-sued/#comments

  14. k

    we have around 285,000 people in barbados and we have a 650 bed hospital . the accident and emergency department has 19 beds to see patients. you do the math. please dont forget the ambulance trolleys that litter the corridors every single day with patients waiting to be seen, when a patient gets admitted to a ward , almost every day the wards are full , so patients have to stay in A&E till a ward or bed becomes free. that all adds to the confusion of keeping track of people in the department. they are also short of staff at all levels as well as working with substandard equipment that keeps breaking down.
    fact – waiting times are always going to be long in an emergency room .- especially in ours when we have so many problems already.
    fact – simple rule of thumb – if you are not dying or critically ill , you will wait outside. the sign says accident and emergency . do not go there for you simple laceration , do not go there if you stubbed your toe , do not go there if you have a cough or a runny nose, do no go there for your skin rash , and i am not making this one up , do not go there to watch TNT on tv.
    fact – there are only 10 ambulances working for the QEH , use the resources wisely ,so if you call the ambulance for your bad back , which you will not die from , the man with the heart attack has one less ambulance t his disposal. people have faked illnesses to call for an ambulance to get a ride to town.
    the staff there are just as frustrated under the conditions they are working in. but everyday they show up and keep it running.
    yes , the system is far from perfect , and mistakes will be made, but why has nobody ever commended the staff on the lives that they do save on a daily basis , nobody ever mentions those. believe me , i have seen worse emergency rooms in other so called developed countries.
    to all bajans, STOP ABUSING THE SYSTEM THAT IS TRYING TO KEEP YOUR SORRY ASSES ALIVE. and everyone treated the same . whether you are the drunk vagrant found face down in a gutter outside a rum shop or if you are the prime minister , you are all treated the same way. and oh yeah , its FREE. please go to any other caribbean country or even the good old USA and see what kind of health care you get there , go on i dare you. as a bajan , who has been around the world, we have it good., we are blessed.
    the staff are not the problem , we need another hospital , and we need it soon. the conditions for the staff and the patients are appalling , in any other country , they would have gone on strike ,but not here.
    i think the staff deserve a pat on the back or better yet a standing ovation.
    to clarify about the canadian who had the suspected heart attack , the reason he was put in the waiitng room was probably as usual they were no beds., but before he had to wait , they would have done his vitals , his heart test , blood tests and then put outside till a bed becomes available. so the staff were of the opinion that he was not in danger , because these tests were done , why no one has mentioned that , more importantly , he did not die, and even more importantly , there was probably someone inside who needed the bed who was dying. its not a good system , but that is what you have to do in their current predicament. and before i end my fricking essay. what the hell do you have against nigerian nurses ? get your facts straight , before you blabber nonsense. i gone .

  15. rastaman

    @robert ross:.Lets put it this way ,I nearly lost my life to Sparman,so I figure that is bad for me.

  16. robert ross

    @ Rasta

    Do you want to say more? It’s actually quite important I think. Best to you.

  17. robert ross

    @ K

    IF you read me above, you will see I made many of the comments you rightly make…including the one about Nigerian nurses

  18. rastaman

    I have put that in the hands of the Lord. BUT i would warn other persons to get second opinions.

  19. robert ross

    @ St George

    I’ve followed some of the links since you wrote. I wasn’t aware of the letter issue but broadly knew the background since early post 1999 experiences. The cardiologists are not very happy with themselves never mind Sparman and there is a record, to my knowledge, of able people being got rid of who threaten to break the magic circle at QEH. There was, eg, a very efficient Jamaican heart surgeon and an African cardiologist who was generally reckoned to be first rate. Both treated me then. As for Alfred S – well, at that time (1999-2000) it was a wait of too many weeks before you could see my preferred cardiologist. An associate of mine told me recently of the ambulance service – he had had a good but fairly expensive treatment over a few days and that’s why we phoned the S clinic first. And YES it delivered. Mind – the cost of treatment S offers is actually no more than what the surgeon and anaesthetist at QEH tried to charge me after surgery in 1999 alleging that I was then a private patent – which was untrue. On my back a few days ago the good Dr Ishmael passed my ‘room’ but did not look in though at that time I had seen no cardiologist. Let me say though, I do understand everything that was said in those blogs. I’m not at all concerned with the matrimonial issue though. My concerns relate to the ‘style’ if you like.

  20. Patriott

    We are such an ungrateful bunch. Barbados struggles to provide excellent health services free to end users. Based on my international travel experiences our system here is quite good. there is much more to be done – but I am satisfied under the circumstances.

    If those tourists were in their country then they probably would have been hit with a huge bill. All of us know relatives in US and other places who have no access to healthcare without insurance or money.

    Let us be more appreciative.

  21. judyjudy

    No bills in the UK to UK citizens

  22. Patriott

    Yeah. but look at UK economy vis a vis Barbados own. Let us compare apples with apples. Bajans at home pay no university fees – UK own up by 300%

  23. judyjudy

    Very true but we don’t all go to University however at some point in time we all need healthcare

  24. robert ross

    @ K

    You might like to listen to Faith 102.1 this evening at 9.0pm

  25. Bajan 101

    the point judyjudy is that in the UK you give free healthcare (substandard sometimes) and expensive education. Barbados gives free healthcare and free education. We recognize the importance of both to the development of our economy and society

  26. yu66

    What pisses me off is that all doctors now charge Insurance Co. rates, whether you’re covered by med.insurance or not.

    I attended a very expensive Holetown clinic the other day.
    I filled out their form,since I was a first-timer,
    didn’t tick ANY of the zillion Insurance Co. boxes re. the question “Which of these is your Med. Insurance?”
    mainly because I am not covered.

    It woulda been nice for that to have been taken into consideration when billing me. It wasn’t.
    I was charged full rate, like if I had Insurance to repay me.
    Won’t be going there again, will I?

  27. victor

    Tourists should organise their own health insurance before visiting Barbados. Though you can get top drawer medical treatment on the island, there is little money in the pot to treat locals and it is unfair that that money should be spent on visitors whilst locals await treatment. I know of visitors who have had amazing care, involving complex surgery and after-care, all to the credit of the Barbados medical system but the time has come when we need to draw a line, visitors cannot expect free treatment to the deficit of locals. People are waiting for years for badly needed ops and a visitor has a heart attack and much needed staff at the hospital need to deal with that. Yes, I can see that dealing with a complex medical issue is a learning experience for the doctor students but hey, what about locals? People are paying tax out of their paychecks to support the medical system yet when they need medical help themselves they have to join a queue. often to the detriment of their own health. It”s not fair to subsidise visitors’ health problems with Bajjan taxpayers money.

  28. Barb Brooks

    I agree that the people of Barbados should not have to pay for visitors Medical emergencies.However Barbados relys heavily on the tourist dollar.
    Many of the tourists who have visited for many years ,and stay for longer visits are elderly, and are bound to have emergencies at some time. Most visitors to the Island pay for out of Country medical insurance, before leaving home. It is not cheap and if you have had a medical problem that is reflected in the price you pay.I was surprised at how inexpensive medical treatment was on the island. In Canada there is a rate for each type of procedure. I would expect to pay the same amount, for the same treatment by a qualified Doctor. Perhaps when they work out a plan to accept insurance payments from other countries, using there pay schedule, there will be more money in the coffers. Some of the money tourists pay to come into the country might be used to upgrade the medial facilities. Many visitors are most generous and wish to see the island prosper. A push for updated facilities with fund raisers aimed specifically at the tourist could help.Pass the hat at the Band concert. Try a 50/50 Draw at Oistins Friday night. Get creative.
    25 time visitor. B. Brooks

  29. 61

    There must be improvement at the hospital both for the staff and most importantly the patients. My mother a Bajan on vacation in Barbados since she was living in Canada had a medical emergency and was taken to the emergency department at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in June 2009. She was seen and treatment started. However needed equipment was not available, a CT scan was badly required. Unfortunately the hospital was to organize my moms transport back to Canada but this did not happen. The medical staff failed to monitor my mother appropriate and provide antibiotics even though the family requested the doctor to start antibiotics. Not to mention the hospital was not clean and gave my mother a blood infection which they did not treat until 7. Hours after she presented with a very high fever. My mother passed away just 6 days after she entered the hospital and all the time the family was informed she was stable. Still missing my mom, her death could have and should go been avoided.

  30. rastaman

    @Anon:.So sad to hear,may she rest in peace.Pity they cannot be sued for negligence.

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