West Demerara hospital doctors lament spate of attacks on them

-Sunday incident saw 25-minute brawl in emergency room

Doctors at the West Demerara Regional Hospital (WDRH) yesterday complained about frequent attacks on them and in the latest incident on Sunday ten persons fought in the emergency room for about 25 minutes.

The violence against them was recounted to Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence when staff of the WDRH visited her Brickdam office yesterday following Sunday’s attack where a patient chucked a doctor.

Public Health Minister, Volda Lawrence (right) with some of the WDRH staff yesterday. (Ministry of Public Health photo)

According to a release from the Ministry of Public Health, Lawrence said that she will press for legal action against those involved in Sunday’s attack on the staff which also saw destruction of hospital property.

“This matter will not just slide, I want the staff to feel safe and secure…their safety comes first” Lawrence told the distraught WDRH team.

Dr. Shonnette Jack who worked on the evening of the assault told Lawrence that verbal and physical attacks on WDRH staff by drunken and impatient patients and their families are routine on weekends and holidays.

On Sunday night’s attack, Dr. Jack said there were “10 persons fighting in the Emergency Room for about 25 minutes.” She said during the brawl chairs were being hurled in the direction of the WDRH staff.

Police ignored repeated calls for help, Jack stated. When they visited the station on their own, Jack said police refused to take her statement and later “tried to intimidate me to drop the story”.

“I am totally fed up and discouraged. It doesn’t feel good working anymore,” Dr. Pooran Outar, said according to the press release. He said he has had “countless experiences” being attacked by irate patients and their disgruntled families.

On Saturday night “I was verbally attacked by drunkards” Dr. Pooran stated yesterday.

The assaults on WDRH staff are not confined to weekends or to the Emergency Room, Medical Superintendent Dr. Bibi Jabar and Regional Health Officer (RHO) Dr. Naail Uthman stated.

Dr. Uthman said due to similar past affrays, Region Three authorities agreed to build a police outpost in the WDRH compound but the GPF never occupied it.

Those inebriated and others demanding immediate attention attack the staff “anytime and anywhere” but reserve their strongest ire for doctors and nurses of a particular ethnic group, Dr. Tracey Duncan-Clarke said.

The release said that Lawrence and a team will visit the WDRH today to hold further discussions with the staff.

Assistant Regional Executive Officer (AREO) Jennifer Ferreira-Dougall will also meet with the firm providing security for the WDRH and ‘D’ Division Commander Leslie James to raise the issue about police non-response to calls for help from staff of the hospital, the release stated.

Also expected to be raised are staff concerns that police refused to take any statement from the WDRH staff who were forced to visit the station after police did not heed their calls.

As an interim measure, staff want proper locks on all the hospital doors and a designated safe-place in the event that any future attacks become life-threatening.

On October 6th, 2016, Region Three Regional Executive Officer, Denis Jaikarran had written Region Three Police Commander, Leslie James noting a number of incidents at the hospital, the most recent of which had been a break and enter and larceny on October 4th, 2016 at the home of the Regional Health Officer, Dr Shawn Bancroft. Jaikarran had also noted that a request of August 8th, 2016 for a police outpost at the WDRH had been met with a response by the police and the regional administration that such an outpost was not possible.

Yesterday’s release said that Lawrence encouraged the hospital staff not to be put off by the altercation but to continue viewing their profession “as a privilege to serve humanity”.

Speaking about the Sunday incident, Police ‘D’ Division Commander James had told Stabroek News on Monday that the patient chucked the doctor and another patient, who had witnessed what had occurred, intervened leading to a scuffle.

When the man’s relatives observed what was happening they also intervened, resulting in a melee. This newspaper was told that the police were called to the hospital after the security guards were challenged to control the situation. Several items were destroyed in the process and the hospital is currently tabulating the extent of the damage.

According to James, when the police responded, the man, his relatives, the second patient and the doctor were taken to Vreed-en-Hoop Police Station where statements were given by all parties.



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