Health care professional: Be more responsible for your health

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A nurse checks out a visitor to a Bovell Cancer-Diabetes Foundation health fair. – File photo

If people are responsible for managing their health and well being it would help keep the already overwhelmed public health care system under control.

Avion Drayton-Bailey, the first vice president of the Trinidad and Tobago National Nurses Association, gave the advice as she said Trinidad and Tobago was facing a crisis relating to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which have overwhelmed clinics and healthcare systems.

“In our society, people often use the phrase ‘Something must kill me,'” Drayton-Bailey said.

“So, we eat what we want, we drink what we want, and then we go to the hospitals to be cured, to be fixed. It has caused an overwhelming burden on the system.”

Drayton-Bailey commended the Health Ministry for its efforts, acknowledging there is always room for improvement.

She was one of two panellists on the Tuesday Talk programme hosted by the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ).

The other panellist was Dr Sandi Arthur, the fifth vice-president and PRO of the TT Medical Association.

MSJ leader David Abdulah moderated the event.

The topic discussed was “My Health My Right – do we all have equal access to quality health care?”.

It was in keeping with the theme for World Health Day, which was observed on April 7.

Drayton-Bailey manages the cardiology unit at Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope.

She said hundreds of patients access the clinics daily. Sometimes, there are two clinics a day, one with a cardiologist in the morning and another in the afternoon.

Drayton-Bailey added that thousands of patients access health care nationwide, and owing to the large number, the waiting time can be long.

“Unfortunately, some people may pass before even assessing health care. But we cannot hire 100 cardiologists, we cannot hire 200 of something else. What we need is for our society to become more responsible for its healthcare so that we do not overwhelm the system,” Drayton-Bailey said.

She said patients might see a doctor in the accident and emergency department and refer them to a clinic. There, they might get an appointment for two years later.

“It is not because they are deliberately scheduling you two years down the road. It is because all the clinics are filled up until that point in time. Sometimes, a doctor might try to squeeze you in, and then there are spillovers in the clinics.”

Apart from an NCD crisis, Drayton-Bailey said TT also has a nursing shortage crisis.

It is not only in TT but in the world. She said the president of the International Council of Nurses, Dr Pamela Cipriano, did studies which revealed a shortage of 13 million nurses worldwide.

“When you look at that sort of shortage, you see how difficult it is to have health care providers who can adequately treat patients, improving their health and reducing waiting times in clinics and health centres.”

Drayton-Bailey said while some people make negative remarks about the local health care system, they should feel privilege knowing they have access to free health care.

She added that only two billion people worldwide have full access to health care, and TT is part of the lucky few.

The panellists also discussed the Patients’ Charter of Rights and patients’ obligations.

Drayton-Bailey said this country follows 19 rights, among them access as well as refusal to treatment and respect for culture and religion.

“Citizens have access to all services once they are available at the public institutions,” she said.

“Non-citizens are entitled to emergency health care. They are not entitled to generalised health care like surgeries unless it is an emergency case.”

Like Drayton-Bailey, Arthur emphasised that health care is a shared responsibility between providers and patients.

Arthur said it was a human right for people to have access to health care.

She said the four pillars of the medical association were to treat, teach, mentor and advocate.