Reports of the Mandela Avenue accident on the dreadful eve of Monday, July 18, 2011 flooded the press. Photographs and video recordings of the injured and dead were plastered on most if not all newspapers, television stations, newscasts and even the internet, via social and other networks.
However, only few highlighted the efforts of the staff of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation: Medical, Nursing, Technical and Ancillary, inter alia, in treating, counselling and caring for those injured patients and their relatives as well.
At about 20:30h that night, the hospital received a telephone call informing the Supervisor of an accident and that the patients would be arriving soon. Within the blink of an eye, patients and casualties started arriving at the hospital. However before they arrived, the A&E staff had already started setting up infusions and alerting the other departments of what they assumed would be ‘another accident’ case. However, everyone that came was critical and required urgent and immediate treatment.
Can one be truly prepared for what came that night? Men, women and children came with blood flowing profusely from their faces, heads and other parts of their bodies; they suffered injuries to their heads, back, neck; they had broken arms, legs; they were lying on stretchers crying and screaming; one was already dead!
The triage area was immediately cleared; the relatively stable patients already in the unit were taken to other areas to make room for the accident victims. The entire unit was converted into one trauma room and all the monitors were set up and attached to the patients who needed them. The X-Ray Department, the Medical Laboratory, the Blood Bank, all surgical registrars and on-call doctors were alert and ready. Some of the nurses had just changed shift and handed over for the day, but they never left until the following morning; they performed beautifully! Dr Harry, Consultant, who was called earlier to review a patient, assisted by suturing patients and setting IV lines.
The entire ambience of Emergency Room was immaculate; doctors from the Ministry of Health and other institutions who were at the hospital for varying reasons also assisted in treating these patients. There was total camaraderie and solidarity amongst the staff of all departments including Security that had to clear the area and control the large crowd that had gathered outside the Emergency Room, including those understandably frantic and worried relatives.
The funny thing was that earlier in the day, the X-Ray machine was creating some minor problems and portable machines had to be used; however that night they functioned as if there had been no problem earlier; all the cassettes and racks were stacked in the trauma room ready to be utilized.
But on whom would procedures be performed? None of the victims were identified; the only way of identifying them at the time was to give them numbers and Xs. CT scans were performed on those XIs and X2s at the Cancer Institute that also voluntarily did CT scans of the neck, although not requested. GPHC bore the cost for all the scans and the results were returned within minutes; so were the laboratory and X-Ray results. Blood was made available within 15 minutes of request after the patients were cross matched.
It was heartrending to see those patients lying there, some of whom died subsequently, but that did not prevent the staff from performing their duties with professionalism, competence, skill and order.
It is daunting that more often than not, patients, relatives, the media and the general public criticize the hospital and staff for sometimes unavoidable mishaps; negative articles are given priority over the positives, which are hardly if ever published. However, the public can rest assured that the staff at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation are capable of handling any situation that is presented, and the Homestretch Avenue accident like the plane crash on Saturday, July 30, at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport is a testimony to that fact.
Public Relations Office
Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation