Mon | Sep 20, 2021

Tomoya Pryce | Truth behind Jamaica’s healthcare system: A nurse’s perspective

Published:Tuesday | September 14, 2021 | 12:05 AMTomoya Pryce/ - Guest Columnist
The disregard and disrespect is discouraging, resulting in a lack of willingness. One can do so much and no more. We are not robots. No one speaks about the disrespect we receive and the ungratefulness of most.
The disregard and disrespect is discouraging, resulting in a lack of willingness. One can do so much and no more. We are not robots. No one speaks about the disrespect we receive and the ungratefulness of most.

Edgar Cayce once said, “There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, it doesn’t behove any of us to speak evil of the rest of us.” It must be that the flaws in Jamaica’s healthcare system are neatly wrapped or disguised, why it is not as obvious to the public.

The lack of bed spaces in hospitals, poor working conditions, need I say limited resources, inadequate staff to provide the quality healthcare that the public voiced it is not getting, have only been amplified by the latest escalation in COVID-19 cases. The problem is not new. And, when the healthcare professionals, more so the nurses, are compelled to seek better opportunities because of stipend salaries being paid, what exactly is expected?

No one sees the effort, how flawed the healthcare system is, but, instead, bash healthcare professionals for stooping to the atrociousness of the healthcare system. How heartrending it is for us to put your 80-year-old mother or grandmother in a wheelchair to sit up for days. Wheelchairs have long being utilised for patients to sit rather than reserved for the incoming. It is disheartening, to say the least, yet healthcare professionals are blamed for this mess. How are we responsible for providing beds so the sick won’t sit on chairs for days, ensuring patients’ needs are met with resources not readily available, providing equipment and building infrastructures necessary to house the sick?

In addition, it is impossible to provide effective and quality healthcare with such inequitable staff-to-patient ratio. How can one nurse be assigned 12 or more patients under such strenuous conditions, which are not favourable for either patient or healthcare worker? How can two or three nurses effectively provide optimum care for a unit of almost 40 patients or more? Look at the hours worked with a ‘skeletal’ staff who are underpaid. No one sees that; miracles are expected while putting a band-aid on the wounds of healthcare workers. The public is ignorant to the fact that it is the flaws in the system that cause them to suffer rather than the healthcare professionals.

BASHED FOR LOVING MONEY

Nurses are often bashed for loving money when, in truth, we are really underpaid; and there is so much more than just the money. It is a matter of not being valued, which is further evidenced by the very nature of our job. It is rather hard to work in an unpleasant environment, especially one in which you are not valued, appreciated or commended for one good deed. It is always something negative. One is forced to give care above that which is received or provided. The system is unhealthy and distasteful. No one is bold enough to address this or speak plainly about it. Discussions are usually sugar-coated and the real issues are buried, as against being highlighted when this so-called ‘free’ healthcare helps to create the problem.

The disregard and disrespect is discouraging, resulting in a lack of willingness. One can do so much and no more. We are not robots. No one speaks about the disrespect we receive and the ungratefulness of most. Only patriotism is expected from our nurses, with nothing to gain. Patriotism cannot pay the bills or buy groceries. It cannot get you a home, a car, or good education for your children. Nurses are barely qualified for a home loan. We are looked upon in pity, which is rather embarrassing. Too often it is forgotten that we are humans, too. We have feelings, we are real people with families, and life goals we want to achieve. Nurses have dreams, too, which cannot be accomplished in our country on a stipend salary with no pension ­– they will only remain dreams.

I implore you the public to see our healthcare crisis for what it is: a flawed system. Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system, and it is a thankless and underpaid job with no plans from the powers that be to improve the system or our stipend salaries. Mr Prime Minister, importing foreign nurses at higher salaries with lower input, and who require training from our local nurses, will not fix the flaws in the system. Your very own Jamaican nurses are in great demand in other countries, particularly now amidst a global pandemic, and our stamina and work ethic speak for itself. It is time to fix our healthcare system. Are nurses and doctors so bad for wanting new or improved infrastructure, proper equipment, readily available resources and better compensation in an effort to properly care for the public, ourselves and our children?

Tomoya Pryce is a registered nurse,. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.