Many citizens dread visiting the Accident and Emergency (A&E) ward at the Victoria Hospital due mainly to the long waiting period of, in most cases, in excess of four hours — persons are reminded of the waiting period by means of a sign next to the triage area. Given this, one could understand those who, instead of visiting the ward, abuse the ambulance service under the assumption they will benefit from immediate attention or, at least, a reduction in the waiting period.
The issue of interminable waiting periods is an old one and is due to a number of factors, many of which could be mitigated. In addition, there are many things that can be done to make it less wearisome.
The average life expectancy for males and females in Saint Lucia is seventy-three and seventy-eight years respectively (World Health Organization, 2015). As we age, we are likely to develop a host of medical problems. After several visits to the A&E ward with an elderly woman, I have learned a lot in the way of preparation and other factors that could lead to a less stressful experience.
It is very important to carry along things that will keep you engaged while you wait. I tend to grab an interesting book and material that I may need to prepare for work or other activities. I recently learned of the need to always walk with some food as the canteen and other food stalls at the hospital do not operate round the clock and the prices of some items are exorbitant.
Having friends who work at the hospital could aid in reducing your wait-time, by way of preferential treatment. However, how you interact with these individuals will be a major determinant in whether they are inclined to assist you in that way.
Being accompanied by a concerned and observant friend or family member is indispensable. They can advocate on your behalf and especially monitor your situation to inform the medical staff if it is deteriorating.
It is good to be mindful that persons are seen in order of the severity of their emergency situation. And while it may be our turn to be attended to, we could be displaced by a new case, which is deemed of higher priority.
The waiting period is also dependent on the size of the medical team on hand, their experience, and their overall approach to the work. A small and inexperienced staff can result in an extended and exhaustive waiting period that no amount of preparation can cushion. Moreover, the air of nonchalance that sometimes pervades the ward adds to the frustration of the patients, their families and friends. When these frustrations and those of the medical team converge, the outcome is not always the best.
It is my view that only genuine emergencies should be handled at the ward; non-life-threating cases should be handled by local health centres, some of which were equipped for medical staff to overnight. This would greatly reduce the number of persons visiting the hospital and reduce the waiting period for persons to receive medical care, both in life threating and non-life threating situations.