For some elderly patients, a trip to the city’s public hospital is turning into a permanent stay as they are being abandoned at the institution, which in some cases becomes their final stop.
Some patients at the Georgetown Public Hospi-tal (GPH) have been there for around two years and accommodating them long after they were due for discharge is putting a strain on resources needed for sick patients, like beds.
Bertia Haniff, 64, has been at the hospital for the past several weeks. “My son just drop me in front of the hospital and tell me that, “yuh home is here from now.” And I come inside and see the doctor and that is how I end up here,” he explained to Stabroek News.
Speaking from his bed, Haniff, who hails from 62 Enterprise, East Coast Demerara, said that he is unable to walk after he suffered a stroke recently. “No family don’t come and see me. I would like if they would come because since I come they never even come and give me a cup of water or nothing. I prefer to stay here because I getting food and they looking after me good because when I went home they use to cook wah they want to cook,” he stated.
He said he is married but, “my wife gon away like 20 years now and she never look back, she don’t even call me. Is two children we get, a son and a daughter. I think they just leave me here to die. The doctor de tell me that he is going to take me to the Palms soon and I am waiting to see what will happen. Nobody don’t come and talk to me, just the doctor and the nurse them,” the man said.
Chief Executive Officer Michael Khan told Stabroek News that the problem is one that the hospital has been struggling with for years. “Most of these patients have been deserted for a number of years. There are many times when beds are not available because of these patients, who are discharged [but] are occupying the bed,” he explained.
Khan also said that the hospital is looking to collaborate with several organisations to effectively deal with the issue.
The hospital has also been forced to arrange and pay for burials when deserted patients die. In the past several months, four such patients have died. “Some of these patients die and their bodies have not been claimed and we have to bury them in what we call a ‘poor burial’ and we have to take them on the East Coast. The cost for that is very expensive. It usually costs $50,000 to hire the truck to take one body up and then we still need to pay $15,000 to pay to have the graves dug,” a hospital staffer said.
A source explained to this newspaper that many times the person who drops off the patient claims to be a “friend” or “family friend” but they leave the patient at the Accident and Emergency Unit without looking back. “It is only when these people die and they need to produce a death certificate then they come and change their mouth and say how they are related to them. Sometimes they don’t even come and the hospital is left with the burden of burying them,” the source said.
“Either they promise to come or some of them just don’t answer their phones. One time this man was dropped off at the Accident and Emergency Unit by a woman, but his condition did not warrant admission. We made numerous calls to the contact number that she left and she refused to answer. Several days after we blocked the ID and called her and when she answered and we identified ourselves, she said, ‘Why y’all can’t keep him?’”
According to the source, the hospital has gone as far as it can in terms of treatment protocol, “but the relatives have to come and take over after the treatment stops,” the source said.
“The hospital goes above and beyond… to help these persons. Many times it is not easy dealing with these patients because they are more demanding than the normal patient.
‘Longing for home’
Much like Haniff, some patients this newspaper spoke with said they preferred to stay at the hospital because they were getting better treatment there. But others expressed the desire to go home.
Charlton Shibley said he was visiting a friend when he decided to do a checkup. “I was walking good and then my hand and foot just collapse and that is how come I come here,” he said.
Shibley, who said he resides at 22 Crane Housing Scheme with his father and stepmother, explained that it has been two and a half months since he has been at the hospital. “My family over the river but they don’t even know I am here because they didn’t know I came to the hospital. My friend who dropped me he never even came back to check and see how I doing,” he said.
“I jus wan go home because if I deh home at least I could try a thing and mek lil money. I wish if I could go home and watch lil TV. Right now cricket showing and I glad if I could watch it,” he said. His two children, he said, live in Suriname.
Fifty-one-year-old Roopnarine Dean said he has been in the in institution for more than a month and like Shibley he longs to go back where he came from. “Mi nah wan deh here. I can’t deh in one place for long. Is the ambulance bring me here from Kitty and I just want to go back,” Dean said.
Another patient, Terrence Teixeira, 67, of Lot 74 Success Railway Embankment, said that he is unable to walk and has been at the hospital since last March with a fractured hip.
According to his aunt, he has no other family in Guyana and she is unable to take him. “I can’t take him right now because I myself looking for somewhere. Everyone else for him deh away. We wanted to take him to Uncle Eddie’s Home but they say that they only want people that can walk and the Palms say that they only taking patients from Night Shelter right now.” She explained that he was living with several persons on the East Coast before he was taken to the institution. “They ain’t even come and see he because he can’t walk. I does try and come here every two days and see him.”
The aunt and other relatives of the man who
visited Stabroek News last week also said that they don’t “sneak into the hospital to collect his identification card so that we can collect his pension,” as was reported in another section of the media.
Victor Pierre, 52, who hails from Lot 5 Stanleytown, West Bank Demerara, said he was taken to the hospital by an ambulance. “Is long I selling drinks at the Timehri Park and is lil back problems mek I deh in here. I hoping to rise again because me ain’t want stay in here, me ain’t come here to molest anybody,” he said.
He said his family has promised to “come and collect me so I could go from here.”
There are also several patients who were taken to the institution from the East La Penitence Night Shelter. Thirty-six-year-old Andre Harris is one such patient and he has been at hospital since January 19.
According to a source, the night shelter refuses to collect these patients, “especially if they cannot walk or do something for themselves. A lot of times the orderly would come to the gate and lock the ambulance out of the compound.” Stabroek News made several attempts to contact officials at the night shelter but was unsuccessful.
Geeta Lakhan said she has been at the hospital for the past five months. Lakhan, 32, of Supply, Mahaica, said that she has three children who she hasn’t seen since she was hospitalised. “I wan go home. Mi nah like it here. My family does come like once a blue moon and see me. My sisters came and they tell me that they willing to take me home but they can’t because they live with mother-in-law and father-in-law,” she said.
Other patients who have been left at the hospital include Salim Rashid; Bhola Bacchus Jr, 22; Ann Hall, 59, of Lot 573 East Ruimveldt Housing Scheme; Agatha Blade, 91, of Lot 41 Palm Street, Werk-en-Rust, Ena Xavier, 78, of Lot 73 Vlissengen Road and Kenneth Jairam, 58, of Lot 14 Swan Street, Pouderoyen. Many of them have been at the hospital since 2012.
Meanwhile, a source close to the Palms Geriatric Home said that when elderly persons are left at the hospital by their family or friends, they can be taken to the home. “The director of GPHC and social welfare officer can make arrangements with the Palms for them to come here.”
“GPHC has to indicate to us that they have these patients, about three weeks ago four patients from GPHC came over to the Palms. In the past it wasn’t difficult to get persons, but now because of the new administration and the social workers it takes a bit longer,” the source said.