Minister of Health, Donville Inniss????

The Ministry of Health recently initiated talks with relevant agencies to swiftly address the ongoing issue of abandoned elderly persons at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).

The first meeting was held at Jemmotts Lane and involved QEH personnel and the National Assistance Board (NAB). During these discussions, Minister of Health, Donville Inniss called on the NAB to garner support from other social agencies including the Welfare Department and the Child Care Board on the matter which has seen a record 34 senior citizens abandoned at the hospital.

Revealing that some of these persons were discharged for days, weeks and even years, "with no-one returning to come for them", Minister Inniss said: "Not all are 65 years; some are younger with physical and mental challenges, for example cerebral palsy, who cannot be cared for at home, or elsewhere."

"It is not always that the relatives can’t care for them, we at the Ministry of Health will not be so cruel and inhumane as to put people on the streets and that is why often times they languish at the QEH because the attitude seems to be that once they are at the QEH, they get a meal, a bath every day and are taken care of. So, nobody bothers with them anymore."

He also noted that the state was challenged from the perspective of sufficient social workers to assist the hospital and the Health Ministry, in conducting thorough assessments of the circumstances surrounding abandonment.

Currently, the QEH has only five social workers to conduct such appraisals, plus deal with a myriad of other pressing issues. While Mr. Inniss disclosed that the Ministry was already addressing these matters through a transfer to other health facilities, he, however, called on other social agencies to assist with the investigation by putting systems in place in the home environment "that could take some of that pressure off of the QEH".??

Meanwhile, a Senior Medical Social Worker at the QEH, Lorna Belgrave, identified housing as a major problem confronting some elderly patients. She explained that if these persons were living in bad conditions, prior to having a stroke or an amputation, once they were hospitalised for any length of time their homes fell into a state of disrepair and the hospital could not allow them to return to such situations.

She therefore proposed having a collaborative arrangement between the Urban Development Commission, the Rural Development Commission and the National Housing Corporation to assist with increasing the housing stock for such persons. "In some cases, if the homes could be improved, relatives could take their elderly back," she contended.

Ms. Belgrave further called for sponsorship, by these organisations, of some patients in private nursing homes to reduce the considerable costs to the Health Ministry and the QEH.

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