Health Minister Fuad Khan is adamant that the only way to boost the public health service by the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex at Mt Hope is to demand efficiency from all employees of the hospital. Khan, who spoke with the T&T Guardian on Friday, said his plan to outsource services for various departments like cardiology could not really be considered privatisation as first preference will be given to the employees of the hospital.
He said unions and employees should take the opportunity to form themselves into companies that can deliver goods and services in an efficient and timely manner. Khan said he had put out expressions of interest only and was simply trying to find out if anybody would be interested in the viability of the proposal.
Khan said protests in the health sector had seriously affected the delivery of quality service to patients, and something had to be done immediately. He added outsourcing may be the only way to get people to do the work they are paid to do. “We have people who come to work and just do nothing, but they still have to be paid. If they form their own companies, then they will know that they have to deliver quality service to be paid,” he said. “We cannot do the same things over and over and expect better results. We have to be able to hold them responsible.”
Khan said the level of service at the Mt Hope hospital must be lifted. He said he believed that this was the only way to ensure no more waiting lines, clean operating areas and a generally well-maintained hospital. “People are fighting it because we will now hold them accountable, but we will make our service more efficient. Some people just want to keep the old way,” he said.
Dr Visham Bhimull, president of the T&T Medical Association, also spoke with the T&T Guardian in a telephone interview. He stressed that he was not speaking on behalf of the organisation but giving his professional opinion. He said Government had been losing money in the health sector because of programmes like CDAP which could sometimes be abused by people who did not need access to free drugs.
Bhimull said because of such programmes, Government had to find ways to generate revenue and he believed privatisation might be one of the few ways to go. However president of the Public Service Association Watson Duke disagreed with the minister’s concept totally when he spoke with the T&T Guardian in a telephone interview.
Duke said the only way to increase performance at the hospital was to raise the salaries of nurses and doctors and then stop them from working for private hospitals. He said if proper compensation was given to the staff of the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA), there would be no sub-standard service.
He challenged the private hospitals to come forward with a model that could work with a hospital like the EWMSC. “Why they don’t go and build a private hospital in Chaguanas somewhere? They cannot privatise this hospital that this country has built out of our own blood, sweat and tears,” he said.
Duke said he believed the health minister was “speaking folly” about the low standards at the Mt Hope hospital. He added that there was no performance-appraisal system in place in the NCRHA and questioned how the work of the staff was being properly evaluated. He also expressed confidence that the board of the NCRHA would reconsider the idea to privatise the hospital services until they had further talks with the PSA and members of the hospital staff.