Wheelchairs go walkabout

| 28/03/2014

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Hospital appears to be suffering from a non-medical epidemic, with 30 wheelchairs having disappeared from the premises over the last five years. Health Services Authority CEO Lizzette Yearwood acknowledged the problem and estimated that each year, anywhere from five to eight wheelchairs go missing. On a daily basis, there should usually be about 10 wheelchairs available for use throughout the hospital, but these days that number is down to eight, she said. The most likely reason for the disappearing wheelchairs, which cost between $200 and $300 each, is that people are simply taking them, with no intention of bringing them back, Yearwood explained. (Photo bySandra Catron)

“It is suspected that patients are taking them off the hospital compound and not returning them,” she said. At the moment, there are no security measures in place to prevent the chairs being taken, but the administration is now being forced to take precautions.

Larger hospitals, such as those in the US, employ security staff who routinely guard against wheelchairs being taking off premises, but that requires additional personnel.

“We are in the process of securing the wheelchairs, which includes locking them until they are required by a patient,” Yearwood said. “We have also started to place poles on the chairs to prevent them from being placed in vehicles.”

Patients with trucks can still fit the chairs in their vehicles, however, a point made by Cyndy Ebanks, a nurse in the hospital’s Ambulatory Care Unit. She has been dealing with trying to keep the unit’s lone wheelchair safe for years. In 2006, they received a dedicated wheelchair but it has been an ongoing problem holding onto it.

“Once the chair disappeared for about six months,” Ebanks recalled. “One of the hospital’s security staff saw it in someone’s shed in the Eastern Districts and recognised it. He brought it back to the hospital and after that a staff member donated a bicycle chain. We now keep it locked in a room in the unit.”

Suggesting that porters, who are responsible for in-hospital transport, should always remain with the wheelchairs, Ebanks added, “I’d rather push the patient to the entrance myself so I can bring the chair right back to the unit.”

Another staff member gave examples of wheelchairs being found on the roads after whoever was using them simply left them in the street when they were no longer needed.

Estimates from other hospital personnel put the number of wheelchairs now available as low as five, including the ACU chair, with two dedicated to maternity, one donated to the Critical Care Unit and one “roaming’ chair for the other units and wards.

The Accident and Emergency and dialysis units are the most frequent users, along with elderly or immobile inpatients who need to be transported within the hospital, or outpatients who have to be wheeled to and from their cars. For whatever the use, the issue of wheelchairs being removed creates a continuing hardship. “I am appealing to any one who uses the wheelchairs to ensure they are returned safely so they can be available for the next patient who is in need,” Yearwood said.

Ebanks added her own appeal: “Please bring them back because it could be your mother or father who needs a wheelchair and there aren’t many available. If you have any in your home, bring them to the hospital, no questions asked.”

Yearwood said she would welcome any donations of wheelchairs, and thanked previous sponsors who have helped provide chairs over the years.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Just found three for sale on ecay, about $500 each, I'm sure these ones aren't stolen (!) but would you leave anything worth $500, with wheels on, laying around?

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is something that has been going on for years due to a reason. Surely people have seen people pushing elderly people in wheel chairs from the hospital ? If they needed the wheel chair in the hospital , then they must need the wheel chair to get home or catch the bus? Surely people are not trying to steal the large item . 

    Remember that health care at one time was free in the past.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Call it an example of community performance art and add a question about it to the culture quiz in the PR test.  At least it would be more relevant than the crazy crap they ask about at the moment.

  4. UHUHUH says:

    And I quote:“We are in the process of securing the wheelchairs, which includes locking them until they are required by a patient,” Yearwood said. “We have also started to place poles on the chairs to prevent them from being placed in vehicles.”

    It really is amazing that [according to this article] for five years this has been happening, yet nothing was done about securing these chairs! It just goes to show that those in charge are either totally inept or they just don't give a hoot. Had this been in the private sector somebody's head would have rolled, or at least they would have been severely disciplined. But this is "Our Government".

    You see it is my humble opinion that those at the top in Government, have over the years formed their own union, which is endowed with its own special rules! The greatest of which is "that at all cost" we must protect each other, and by so doing, enable each and everyone to continue collecting their enormous salaries, while ignoring all the unnecessary and wasteful things they see happening right under their noses. Things like the removal of wheel chairs from Hospital!  

    Until the day, we stop promoting civil servants to their level of incompetence, we will continue to see these things happen. Until the day when we get civil servants who are charged with certain responsibilities, to also be charged with "accountability" these things will continue to happen. There has to be, some important examples set, so that others hoping for promotion will get the message loud and clear. But of course this will never happen, because it's against the "Rules of the Union".

  5. Culture Wars says:

    This is the same mentality as the folks who push Fosters’ shopping all around George Town and Savannah.

    It comes down to laziness. Too lazy to return the wheelchair. Too wutless to carry a couple shopping bags to the bus stop.

    That didn’t used to be a Caymanian thing but the people have discarded all notions of pride and self-reliance.

  6. Ed says:

    When my wife borrowed a wheel chair from George Town hospital for me to use a few years ago, I was humiliated to realise when I returned it that, I had been pushed all around Kingston, Jamaica for two days with, "RETURN TO OBSTETRICS AND GYNAECOLOGY' printed in large red letters on a white background on a plaque attached to the back of it.  

    Sitting in it, I had never noticed but everyone else would have done.


  7. Anonymous says:

    So which culture am I supposed to respect and emulate if I want citizenship?  What exactly does it mean to 'respect Caymanian culture' (or any culture for that matter).  What exactly is culture?? Help please. 

    • anonymous says:

      Follow Caymankind. No rules apply to you and you can do any job you want.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Who owns/operates —  the new ambulance service located at the Cayman Centre, across from the airport post office — surely it doesn't belong goverment — ????

  9. Anonymous says:

    This is a serious problem that needed addressing a long time ago. When George Town Hospital was George Town Hospital, there was enough wheel chairs for anyone to use and the then Caymanians did not take them away either. I just hope that a new post is not created for a wheel chair attendant as there are enough securities etc standing around having these conversations etc that could be given that assignment as the good ole days will never come back when things are left on the compound. Not only is wheel chairs missing but ice bags, urinals and heating pads etc? I have seen the confusion with staff looking for these articles and cant find any. No staff should be allowed to take two hand bags to work, this not only happens at peoples private homes but just check the camera if there is any such and that will show staff leaving with hefty hand bags in each hand. Another thing since we are on the Hospital subject, whoever made the rule of not administring repeated perscriptions on Saturdays? Some of these perscriptions are very important to peoples lives especially such as steriods that prevent one from having seizures. We should never adopt rules from these third world countrys. Last but not least we are so proud to have professionals such as Dr Nelson, Dr Ian Teeling, Dr Mercedes,and last but not least our good ole Dr Robertson. Our dear Lizette is trying to do her best and we should give her all support.

    • Anonymous says:

      So sorry to disappoint you, but if Lizette was doing she a great job, she would have more locals hired.  Therein lies or big problems at the hospital. 

  10. Anonymous says:

    The problem is the complete lack of customer service or engagement by the staff. We recently had to tip a janitor $25 to find us a wheelchair after waiting for over an hour after being cleared to leave the hospital. We  were then able to push the chair all the way to our car, passing several staff members in the process, and could easily have  taken the chair with us.  Customer service doesn't just happen in Cayman, it has to be taught. My guess is that it is not a priority for the Leadership.  

    • Anonymous says:

      It may not be a cultural thing. 

    • Anonymous says:

      In the U.S. you get pushed to your car in a wheelchair by hospital staff, but those hospital wheelchairs do not leave the hospital grounds. If you need a wheelchair for personal home use, you must go rent or purchase one at a pharmacy or pharmacy medical supply store. Maybe that is the solution.

    • Anonymous says:

      Have you checked the origin of 99 percent of the employees?  I can remember when the hospital was staffed by locals,  some nurses and doctors were from overseas, These recent years there is no employment for us but for them.  

  11. Anonymous says:

    How could HSA blame anyone but themselves? Lack of policy & procedures with administrative controls to ensure all property is tracked and persons responsible for tracking are held responsible as well.  Airports & other municipalities dont seem to have baggage trolleys or other public interfacing assets just walk out and never to be found. So tired of HSA never taking responsibility for so much including their wheelchairs!!  I'm sure some benevolent organisation will go and donate new ones- only for the cycle to start all over again. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Sounds a lot like the Police asking bad / careless / dangerous drivers to "drive carefully" with their seasonal clamp downs.

      Right….that's gonna work….NOT!

      On a slightly hopful note; I've recently observed the Police actually pulling over a few cars. Still a long way to go to bring about needed change though.

  12. Anonymous says:

    LOL! This is a news story? This works out to a cost of aprox $4 per day when compared to the HSA daily budget of aprox $229k! Not sure the cost of extra wheelchair security is going to be a great money saver. 


  13. Anonymous says:

    There are such selfish b*stards everywhere..depriving the needy because they are shamlessly selfish, ignorant, or just damn mean. Glad to see the Cayman spirit shining through!!

  14. Ambulatory says:

    This was never an issue until Ezzard abolished wheel clamping!!

    • Anonymous says:

      What the hell would wheel clamping have to do with this? We wish that Ezzard was still in charge, and he is well capable of being at the helm. Also wish that we had more Ezzards around. Ezzard is not just a talker or a bull sh it artist, but he gets things done.

      • Anonymous says:

        I am sure if Ezzard was in charge we wouldn't have the mess that government after government inherits.  They need to have anadministrative cleaning of house.  Too many self centered people in one spot.   Put Ezzard there and he would have them working around the clock or they would move on.  Could only happen in Ceyman.

        Caymanians apply for jobs and do t get them, but their own people are hired instead.  Time for a MArCH on the HSA.  Do what they do in other parts of the world.

      • Anonymous says:

        Damning praise indeed.

  15. Anonymous says:

    It s a serious problem. When one is sick and has an appointment say to do blood work and on crutches, there is no central reception or porter to assist in finding a wheelchair. Every other hospital ive been to, including the private one here has a reception and porter to control wheelchairs.

  16. Anonymous says:

    On the topic of health care deficiencies and attracting a wealthy retirement population: how many working AMBULANCES are there in operation?  Chances are high that we ALL may need one of those one day.

    • Anonymous says:

      At any given time on island they tell us that there are three operational ambulances stationed across the island – one at the George Town hospital, one at the West Bay clinic and one in North Side. There should also be spare, or back up ambulances, but I work at the hospital and I know that this is not always the case. There have been many, many times that I've seen one out of the three that we have shut down for the day because of operational issues.


      Not to mention, the number of EMTs and paramedics we have on island is ridiculous. A staff of 30 to cover our entire island 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. These people are overworked and under-appreciated and it seems like the government doesn't care at all.

      • Anonymous says:

        Check how many of the foreignors have attended our tertiary institutions including our Law School.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Could they not be identified as "property of the GT Hospital" so that those inclined to steal would bear the banner of shame from doing so?  Airports, museums, art galleries, and amusement parks identify their assets all over the world in this manner.

    • Anonymous says:

      Nobody cares . . . . THAT is the problem in this country.

      • Anonymous says:

        Nail hit on head. Someone else will give em some new ones or something. It's a bit mind boggling for most North Americans. I dont think its willful, they JUST DONT CARE

        • anonymous says:

          Or understand that it is a privilege not a right. Two things that are frequently reversed and misunderstood by the entitled community.