A testing time at KEMH emergency department
The lateness of this letter does not negate the urgency of my appeal for our hospital authorities to establish the necessary policies to ensure that there are enough doctors on duty or on call at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital’s emergency department. On the Sunday after our Bermuda Day Parade, May 26, at about 10pm, I was rushed to the emergency department with shortness of breath and pain in my chest. The security personnel immediately recognised my plight and expedited registration. This is where the “saga” begins.
The wait for the triage nurse was approximately 20 minutes. All the while, I continued to experience chest pains and was gasping for breath. After she attended to me, she then sent me back to the waiting area. Shortly thereafter, a family including six children and a seriously injured adult, from a car accident, were admitted.
I was informed that the accident victims had priority. After another 45-minute wait, I was taken to a room for “tests”. After another 40 minutes, I went to the desk explaining that no tests had been taken. I was still experiencing pain in my chest and shortness of breath. A battery of tests, including blood work, was finally performed at midnight. Once again, at 2am, I went to the desk to inquire if the test results were in. I was told that the results were in, but the doctor had not been able to read them because she was the only doctor on duty, and was with other patients.
Another long wait. At approximately 3am, the doctor informed me that I would need a CT scan. This resulted in another wait of more than an hour to be taken to the CT scan lab. By now, it is close to daylight. After another nearly two-hour wait, without being informed of any results, I walked out to the desk once again, only to be told that the CT scan results are in, but, once again, the doctor had not had the opportunity to read them.
During my “back and forth” visits to the desk, I made an inquiry as to why there was no on-call doctor available, especially in this obvious emergency situation, which included a serious traffic accident, and a patient who was screaming loudly for several hours that he was in pain. No attention was given to him, either, and I’m told, he resorted to throwing a chair. I’m also told that the police were called. This, in addition to experiencing my own discomfort.
I was discharged at 8am on May 27. Out of my own frustration, I recalled to an attending nurse that at the old KEMH emergency department there were always several doctors on duty or on call. To this, I was told that this new facility is an acute care facility and therefore only requires one doctor in emergency, as per global standard. My response to this was: this may be an acute care facility to you, but for Bermudians, it is our hospital and the only emergency facility available. Consequently, it should be adequately staffed to serve members of our community in any circumstances.
I lodged my complaint with Lynette Bean, the vice-president of quality control, and made a noted verbal appeal for an emergency on-call roster in case additional doctors are needed for increased services. I believe that no one person’s life should be placed in jeopardy because of insufficient doctors at our one and only 24-hour emergency service.
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Charles Smith (1932-2019)
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