Health Minister, Lieutenant Colonel, Jeffrey Bostic cutting the ribbon to officially declare open the 24-hour service at the Winston Scott Polyclinic, this morning. Looking on are Permanent Secretary, June Chandler, Dr. Karen Broome and Chief Health Planner, Reeshemah Cheltenham-Niles. (A.Husbands/BGIS)

Government’s 24-hour service is up and running at the Winston Scott Polyclinic, Jemmotts Lane, St. Michael.

Minister of Health and Wellness, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, officially launched it this morning, with the polyclinic seeing its first two patients, who accessed the 24-hour service.

Stating that the start of the service was reason to rejoice, the Health Minister tempered his excitement by adding that the ministry would wait to see how well the service would be embraced by members of the public and staff of the polyclinic, as it was rolled out.

The service which phases out the Fast Track Service – an extended hour service – is expected to ease the patient load of the Accident & Emergency Department (A&E) of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), and by extension, wait times. 

Patients who seek medical attention at the A&E, but who present with symptoms that the hospital’s physicians deem can be treated at the polyclinic will be referred to the 24-hour service at Winston Scott.  This will allow doctors in the A&E to focus on patients who need more urgent care.

Symptoms which warrant referral to the 24-hour service include fever, with or without a rash, vomiting and diarrhoea, cough, cold and minor injuries, such as a twisted ankle, cuts or bruises, some types of headaches, and belly and back pain.

Lt. Col. Bostic also addressed the delayed start of the 24-hour service at the David Thompson Health and Social Services Complex in St. John.

“I want to say to those in the east and the central parts of the island, who would’ve been looking forward to similar services being provided at the polyclinic, located in the David Thompson Social and Health Services Complex in St. John, that we have not forgotten you and that we are still on track to deliver those services.  And, as soon as we have been able to acquire all of the resources, we will deliver the services at St. John as well,” he said, adding that it should begin there “in a few months’ time”.

Senior Health Sister at the Winston Scott Polyclinic, Rosanette Cooke, introduces Health Minister, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, to one of the first patients of the 24-hour service, Malissa Cadell (sitting), while Staff Nurse, Edwin Baptiste looks on. (A.Husbands/BGIS)

The minister emphasized that the opening of the new service not only marked an improvement in the healthcare services offered to the public, but signalled that more changes could be coming to the local polyclinic system. 

He explained that the current system was created several years ago, and while it had “served this country very, very well”, there was a need to bring certain aspects of it into the 21st century.

“The system was created at a time, for example, when all of the records were done manually, and so people were tied to catchment areas. I think the time has come when we have to start thinking outside of the box, and now that we have digitized the medical records system throughout all of the polyclinics, which makes it accessible to all of the polyclinics, I believe we have to look now and see what we can do to ensure, for example, that a person who works at St. George Parish Church, but who lives in St. Peter, that it may be easier for them to go to the Glebe [polyclinic], rather than to go to Maurice Byer [polyclinic] because of their work schedules and so on.  And that, I believe would improve on productivity throughout this island if we are able to facilitate this.  So, these are the kind of things we have to look at going forward,” he surmised.

Turning his attention to staff at the polyclinic, the Health Minister said he recognized that the catchment area and the demands on them were quite heavy, and that “they have been working very hard”.

He also acknowledged that there was a shortage of nurses, but urged them to continue to give of their best.  The minister assured members of the public that the clinics which are normally held at the polyclinic would continue with the implementation of the 24-hour service.

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