Govt to probe medication claim

There is to be an investigation into claims that some users of the St Andrew Outpatient Polyclinic in Belleplaine, St Andrew, cannot get their medication until a security officer is present.

Coming out of the Estimates Debate in the House of Assembly last Wednesday, Minister of Health The Most Honourable Senator Dr Jerome Walcott said he knew of no such policy within the ministry where medication cannot be dispensed unless the security was on hand.

He and members of his team were responding to a question from Member of Parliament of St Andrew Dr Romel Springer who eventually said the situation was unacceptable. The team was in the Well of the House Assembly responding during the Annual Estimates 2024-2025 in which the ministry has been allocated $236 347 534.

Acting director of the Barbados Drug Service, Delores Mascoll, said she had spoken with pharmacists at the location and there was no such policy but the situation came about because sometimes patients were aggressive.

“And so to ensure the safety of the staff, it is preferred that the security officer be on duty before the clinic opens. So we have the pharmacist on duty . . .  the maid is there to open the door early and everybody is on duty but until the security is there it seems as though the patients are not allowed inside the clinic. So if the pharmacist is to serve the patients she has to go outside the clinic and collect and come back in. She doesn’t have the authority to let the patients in,” Mascoll stated.

However, Springer said he did not believe that because persons were aggressive in the past, a decision was taken that sick persons in need of medication could not access it because a security officer was not in place.

“I’ve seen many of the patients that use that facility are patients well in their 60s and 70s, a lot of the elderly in that community who cannot do any better, who cannot get into ’town or Speightstown. [They] use that facility because it is convenient to do so. For a decision to be made based on  – I don’t know how many cases . . . or what was the reason persons become aggressive  – I do not believe that, that in itself should be reason enough to deprive so many others of their medication,” he stated.

Mascoll said that she did not know that a decision was taken by the pharmacist as during a recent stocktaking exercise they had to retrieve the key from the Eunice Gibson Polyclinic as they did not have access to the clinic

“We have to wait for somebody to open the door. Therefore, if nobody opens the door then we can’t get in neither, that is all I am saying,” the pharmacist said.

She pointed out that the explanation given to her was that there was an incident out of which came the decision but it was not from the pharmacist’s end.

Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary Wayne Marshall said that the primary goal was to ensure all visitors were safe.

“The security officers play a crucial role in ensuring these visitors are safe from harm and all potential violence that may happen from visitors or external threats. There are Government security guards stationed at every polyclinic to control access to that facility . . . there are regular security guards to patrol. There’s no specific policy within the Ministry of Health and Wellness or the polyclinics or the pharmacies in which any particular care or service is denied to any particular visitor because the security guard is not there.

“I would need to investigate that matter to ensure the specific circumstances but there is no official or specific rule or protocol with respect to any person not receiving treatment when a security guard is not there. Rather, the ministry will ascertain whether the Medical Officer of Health is there, who can perform the role of ensuring the person gets that service,” said the Permanent Secretary.

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