Health Minister optimistic despite challenges at health centres

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Community Health Centres are regarded as the “backbone” of the healthcare system in Antigua & Barbuda; they are designed to play a pivotal role in the delivery of basic health services across the state, easing the burden on the country’s primary medical facility – the Mount St John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC)
However, people have expressed dissatisfaction with the general level of service they receive at various health centres, including complaints from nurses and other ancilliary staff at the 26 clinics across Antigua as well as outpatients who access the facilities on a day-to-day basis.
“I would want to know exactly what is going on with these clinics, I just went to Clarehall Clinic and it was empty with the exception of a nurse. I tried to explain what is happening to me and she asked me where I am from,” said a caller to the Voice of the People pogramme. He added that the nurse advised him to take his case to the All Saints clinic to which he was registered.
“I would like to know what is happening, why do I have to travel from one place to another to get the same service, a clinic is a clinic,” the man bemoaned.
OBSERVER media, also heard from elderly men and women who were waiting in queue for dressings and other services as well as an expectant mother seeking antenatal care and a mother who was attending a child care clinic for vaccinations.
One woman, who identified herself only as Jessica, said the services provided at the Grays Farm Health Centre, where she is registered, “are not at all bad”.
She, however, advised persons, who intend to use the facility, to take the day off from work because of the slow rate at which persons are treated at the facility from time-to-time. Jesssica also stated that the service at the facility gets really hectic during childcare clinics and general doctor visits.
Charlesworth Thomas, who utilises the centre that caters to All Saints and other neighbouring communities, said that the service he receives depends heavily on the “mood”of the person who is dealing with him.
Outpatients also complained that some of the facilities operate without a doctor and those doctors, who do show up for duty, stay for only a  short while.
Meanwhile, although healthcare workers at the community level claimed that they demonstrate a high degree of commitment to their duties, the nurses, midwives and doctors pointed to serious constraints and challenges that they encounter at work.
The main challenge highlighted was a severe shortage of staff to man the operation of all clinics. Other challenges include: insufficient tools to get the job done; lack of adequate maintenance; and water shortage.
The health care workers expressed the desire  for educational opportunities outside of the field of nursing as well as the need for better remuneration for the services they render. They all claimed that there is urgent need for more experienced nurses in midwifery, maternal and child health as well as community health aides, public health nurses and clinic aides.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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