It has been 65 years since the Princess Alice Hospital opened its doors in Grenada providing healthcare services mainly to the persons within the parishes of St Andrew, and St. Patrick in particular and to St. John and St. David to a lesser degree.
The hospital, which was developed and designed to provide 24-hour healthcare service, was commissioned by Princess Alice – Countess of Athlone on March 4, 1950.
The rural health care facility marked its 65th anniversary last week Wednesday with a Thanksgiving ceremony at Mirabeau, St Andrew.
“This is a place that has been of service to thousands throughout those 65 years, where many have found employment, where many have gained their skills and today we are going to celebrate and give God praise and thanks,” remarked longstanding employee and current Health Services Administrator at Princess Alice Hospital, Alice Felix.
A nurse by profession, Felix, who has worked as a nurse at Princess Alice for 31 years has been serving in an Administrative capacity for the last year-and-a-half.
She reflected on how far the medical institution has come, and recalled the many challenges encountered and conquered along the way to providing proper health care delivery.
Prior to the early 2000’s there was no public transportation system to access health care at Princess Alice, which resulted in some patients and staff members walking or depending on rides from a ‘Good Samaritan’, she recalled.
She put staff shortages at the top of the list of the many challenges faced by Princess Alice – the country’ second largest hospital.
Initially, one Medical Officer, Matron and Steward Pharmacist managed the operation/activities that provided the day-to-day patient care and the general running of the Hospital, which initially commenced operations with 60 beds.
Following subsequent retrofitting works to improve the facility the bed count at the hospital was downsized to accommodate 45 beds in total.
“We had many challenges because in the years past we only had one doctor who did 24 hours 24/7. And we were also short of nurses.
Previously only three nurses worked at the hospital,” Felix said adding “we did 14 consecutive nights before we had a day off … it was tiring so it was a real challenge”.
At present 6 medical doctors, 13 staff nurses, 9 nursing assistants and 9 registered nurses are rostered to serve at the hospital.
“We have come a very long way from where we were to where we are now…we have improved quite a bit,” Felix said, adding “especially with the staff being increased.”
The Health Services Administrator also shared her future expectations for Princess Alice by making mention of the restoring of “x-ray services, which was discontinued following Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
“Previously we would have had our x-ray services which was discontinued but the x-ray building is now ready for an x-ray machine so we would like to have the service restored,” she said optimistically.
“We do not have an operating Theatre as yet to do surgical procedure” including a caesarean (c-section) and this is one of the things that we would like to see also,” she added.
Felix went on to say “in the near future we would like to see laboratory services, physiotherapy, and ultra-sound services done”, pointing out that an ultra-sound machine has already been donated to the hospital.
Retirees Gladlyn Downes who served the hospital for more than 41 years and Majorie Lazarus who served for 17 years echoed Felix’s sentiments stating that such developments would be a major feat for the institution.
They both stated that it was “really trying especially when they had to transport patients to the General Hospital especially during the night, sometimes making more than one trip and still having to work the following day without getting enough sleep”.
Newly appointed Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health with responsibility for Hospital and Community Health Facility Operations, Javan Williams, provided some insight into what is next in terms of development at the hospital.
He made mention of the highly anticipated x-ray services to commence soon at Princess Alice.
“The building has been completed and we are now in the process of installing the equipment for a state of the art x-ray system and putting the ordinary plan in place to launch that service very shortly,” he said.
Williams also commended the Hospital for having attended to “more than 20, 000 persons within one year.”
“That is a remarkable achievement,” he stated, however he pointed to the many challenges, which he pointed out.
“Government is faced with fiscal constraints in addressing (the services) as may be desired by the community”, he remarked.
The PS Health applauded the past and present workers “for the hard work they have been doing within the trying circumstances to provide health care to the nation.”
Noting that the hospital also offers Primary Health Care services from time to time, Williams said this is to “ensure that our community and people are getting the care that they desire” instead of “having to wait until its too late to rush (down to the St. George’s General Hospital.
During the Thanksgiving ceremony, more than 75 past workers and the hospital’s longest serving doctor at present, Dr Carlyle Noel were recognised.
The event, which climaxed to the musical sounds of the Royal Grenada Police Force Band, was attended by a variety of past workers, Parliamentarian for the St Andrew North-west constituency where the hospital is situated, Delma Thomas and other ministry officials.
Former Sports Minister in the 2008-13 Congress administration, Patrick Simmons, as well as former Parliamentarian, Nadia Benjamin who has been raising funds for the hospital, were also in attendance at the function.