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Seeing red twice

It is said that there are lessons to be learned, and appreciated in our day-to-day situations – good, bad and ugly. I was reminded of this last August during two trips to the public health care institutions for treatment for Conjunctivitis (Red Eye – inflamed, red, mildly swollen eyes, watery discharge, swollen face, pain).

For most, the issue of health care can only be surmised in one experience- ugly, very ugly. While I acknowledge the challenges of the failing health care system, I trust that great customer service can exist in even the most difficult industry. We must never resign ourselves to accepting a bleak customer service prognosis.

August 6

I visited a doctor at St Joseph’s Extended Health Centre, Mt Hope after displaying red eye symptoms. The doctor confirmed such and prescribed an eye-drop for treatment. The pharmacist, at their in-house pharmacy, advised that the prescription is not available at health centres, including theirs, and would have to be purchased elsewhere.

I purchased the eye drop at $27 at the nearest pharmacy, relieved that the little bottle was so cheap. I briefly wondered about other patients and more expensive medication.

August 7

I remembered that the doctor did not grant sick leave and returned to acquire such.

So I went back, red eye symptoms still evident. At the facility, I explained the situation to an employee at the registration desk and was told that I would have to go through the entire procedure again: pull a number, wait to be attended to by a nurse in triage, wait for doctor, see the doctor, get sick leave.

Again, with prescription in hand, I reminded her that I was there prior, saw the doctor and just wanted sick leave and not be screened again. She maintained that was the policy and there was nothing she could do about it.

So without much fuss, I followed instructions obediently, doing exactly what I had done the day before and answering the same questions. I took a number and waited to see a nurse at triage again. While she checked my vitals, I informed her of my plight. She remarked, “So why didn’t you inform the doctor to give you a medical leave of absence? Annoyed, I replied, “He’s doctor for a reason! Wasn’t it his duty to recommend such?”

I exited the room and anxiously waited and hoped a doctor at the facility would recognise the simple solution to my quandary. After one hour of sheer frustration and begging every nurse/doctor to treat the matter expeditiously so I wouldn’t unwittingly infect other waiting patients, one nurse, Ms Smith, finally spoke to a doctor who granted me my sick leave. It was another 20 minutes which had passed, and it was the same doctor I had seen the day before.

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I accompanied a close friend to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex to seek treatment for Red Eye. Yes, it is highly contagious and was unintentionally passed from me to him.

I dropped him off at the Emergency Department and went searching for parking.

Upon entering the Adult Section at the hospital, he was nowhere to be seen. I assumed he was being attended to, so I sat outside waiting.

Fifteen minutes passed and no sight of nor word from him so I enquired with the triage nurse of his whereabouts who further suggested I speak to the doctor for information. I approached the doctor, identifying myself and my relationship to the patient and asking for any details.

The doctor casually informed me that she sent him home as Red Eye is highly contagious and the chance of his spreading it to others at the hospital was high. She actually did not screen him after the triage assessment.

Alarmed, I questioned her actions that she could refuse a patient, especially one who has only one functioning eye. My friend had a welding accident two years ago and uses a prosthetic eye.

Shocked by the revelation, she replied, “I didn’t know. He didn’t inform me that he has one eye. Call him immediately and tell him to return.” My friend over the phone relayed that the nurse and said doctor had “treated him with scorn” and seemed not too concerned about his eye health.

When he returned to the ward, the doctor gave him a ‘small bouff’ for failing to reveal personal medical information. He was immediately accompanied to the opthamology ward where he saw a doctor and was prescribed treatment. The nurses and doctors at the facility were awed that a prosthetic eye could look like an ordinary eye.

There was a beautiful moment in all of this though. My friend was asked to chat with a male patient at the ward, who unfortunately had to have his eye surgically removed and was not in good spirits. He obliged and chatted with the young man sharing his own story of trauma offering him solace, hope and positivity. – Kaelanne Jordan

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