Jamaica Observer:–SENIOR Medical Officer (SMO) at the Savanna-La-Mar Public General Hospital in Westmoreland, Dr Alfred Dawes, is calling for a crackdown on illegal bike riders who he says are putting serious pressure on the health care system in western Jamaica.
According to Dr Dawes, the frequency of motorbike crashes, and the extent of the injuries suffered by the victims without proper headgear result in clogging the system.
“They are a menace!” Dr Dawes remarked yesterday.
“With these head injuries you usually end up with a lot of fractures, and you have to get their surgery done within a certain time,” he explained.
Dr Dawes urged the authorities to increase vigilance on motorcyclists disobeying the road code, especially in western Jamaica, as the current measures are not getting the desired effect.
“When they seize the bikes these men just go and buy a new one as they are cheap and maintenance is cheap.
“Get tough on regulating bikes. Stop every biker person on the road, check their papers to ensure they are legal; increase the fines because what exists is not a deterrent,” Dr Dawes declared.
The SMO added that Westmoreland has the highest rate of bike crashes in the island, and called on the traffic authorities to set up a unit in the parish to target bike riders and ensure they are playing their part in road safety.
“Most of the accidents on this side of the island are caused by them, many of them are not licensed, they wear no helmets, they are carefree and the hospitals feel the burden,” he charged.
Dr Dawes told the Jamaica Observer that each week there is an increase in the number of patients Savanna-la-mar Hospital sees as a result of motorbike crashes, causing the emergency department at the hospital to be overcrowded and often leads to a lack of space on the male surgical wards.
“Sometimes we have three coming in per day, that’s 21 people, mostly males, per week with serious head injuries. There’s a general shortage of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) space for elective cases, much less these accidents,” said Dr Dawes.
He said that because of the situation with mysterious fumes at the Cornwall Regional Hospital, a lot of cases are also sent to Savanna-La-Mar, and “the end result for other patients is them boarding in the emergency department until a bed can be found”.
Added Dr Dawes: “You know what’s worse, nurses have to sit with the ambu-bag beside these patients and blow oxygen through a tube to them because we don’t have enough ventilators as a result of the overall shortage of ICU space islandwide.
“It is added stress for you to sit beside someone and be breathing for them for hours on end and it exacerbates a situation where now you don’t have enough nurses to cater to patients and the burden becomes worse when nurses are tied up doing that and fewer nurses are on the wards.”
Moreover, the SMO stated that the issue of inadequate bed space is never usually resolved in a short time, because such patients end up staying in the hospital for months and often become what he described as social cases.
“They tie up the bed space. If they don’t fully recover, or are in a coma or unable to care for themselves, it becomes a problem for relatives to care for them and they leave them in the hospital indefinitely,” Dr Dawes said.
“If you were to go by a private hospital rate, that could be about $7,000 to $10,000 per day.
“Many of these patients spend sometimes up to six months in hospital and other people can’t get the care they should,” Dr Dawes argued.
The former president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association also mentioned that he is informed of reckless activities involving motorbike riders as part of the initiation for some gangs.
“Patients tell me some bikers will ride out across a road in front of oncoming traffic to prove themselves as a rite of passage for gangs in Savanna-la-mar and Little London. That’s how far it has gone,” Dr Dawes disclosed.
He maintained that the biking issue in Westmoreland is “an epidemic that needs to be stopped before the problem reaches other parishes”.
“With that you will have serious implications to the productivity of the country’s health services. The level of recklessness and carnage on the roads will multiply significantly without a change in behaviour of motorcyclists on the roads,” he said.