As employees at the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) struggle for backpay, although their Trinidad colleagues received theirs, Public Services Association (PSA) president, Watson Duke’s remarks that Tobago employees are no less than their Trinidad counterparts and must be treated as such, are quite appropriate.
But while we empathise with the struggle we also note with concern that despite the many salary increases and back pay releases over the years, the level of healthcare in Tobago has not risen proportionately.
In fact, there are many problems in the system. Some were highlighted by, Senator Shamfa Cudjoe in May 2015, during a Senate debate which outlined the need for a comprehensive review of the island’s healthcare system.
She told the Senate “some health professionals were being irresponsible,” adding that there were “management problems...top-heavy kind of structure.” Her solution was “to review and restructure and decentralise.”
Such remarks, from a Tobagonian representing the People’s National Movement (PNM) at a time when a PNM- controlled Tobago was responsible for health care in Tobago, is an indictment against the island’s administration.
Cudjoe’s remarks, like the report conducted by a team lead by Dr Albert Persad after the maternal/infant deaths of Leciana Sheppard and her son Ajani Merrie, as well as others, pointed to issues that had to be addressed immediately.
Interestingly, the entire Persad’s findings, which may have revealed the reasons for the 17 stillbirths and six infants’ deaths between January 2013 and October 2014 at the hospital, are not fully known.
Snippets of the report, which were revealed during a court matter, indicated that there were systemic failures at the hospital. The problems were not addressed as the entity–the TRHA’s board–responsible for overseeing changes at the institution was itself embroiled in controversy.
Its tenure in office will be remembered most for hiring and firing of many CEO’s, surviving an investigation into payments it made to itself as well as accusations that one of its members profited from contracts it awarded.
The new board, under the chairmanship of Oswald Williams- former Tourism Secretary, is silent on many pertinent issues.
Conclusively, the notion that the implementation of clearly defined protocols alone will result in better healthcare, is naive. What is also needed is a compassionate and a caring attitude from healthcare providers.
At the moment, Tobagonians are just fed up of poor healthcare and want the system fixed.
If the Secretary of Health has to break some moulds and change protocol and personnel, to effect change, then let it be done.
Madam Health Secretary just fix the broken system, please.