Last update: 09-Dec-2013 11:48 pm
Monday, December 09, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Sai Baba doctors to take over from Caribbean Heart Care
Less than one week after Caribbean Heart Care Medcorp’s (CHCM) one-year contract came to an end, Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan is moving to bring in Sai Baba doctors from the USA to perform cardiac surgeries at public hospitals. Khan is maintaining this position as the CHCM’s future hangs in the balance. CHCM, whose contract ended on August 31, is now working on a month-to-month arrangement with the ministry.
While managing director of CHCM Dr Kamal Rampersad is optimistic that the contract will be renewed, Khan said plans are afoot to bring back Sai Baba doctors to replace the heart care provider, which was established in 1993. Khan said he wants the Sai Baba doctors to take over fully at the hospitals.
Among the doctors employed with CHCM is Prof Giovanni Teodori—the lead cardiac surgeon who performed triple bypass surgery on Dr Gregory Bissessar, husband of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, cardiac surgery on former justice minister MP Herbert Volney and Chaguanas Mayor Orlando Nagessar. Each month, CHCM performs 20 cardiovascular surgeries monthly at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) and St Clair Medical Centre, which the ministry pays for.
In December, CHCM was identified by Khan as having received millions of dollars in payments for medical services. Between 2009 and 2010, Khan said, the Eastern Regional Authority outsourced $6.4 million in services to CHCM. The North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) also pumped some $73 million to CHCM for cardiovascular services and intensive care treatment.
Khan: One person, organisation can’t control everything
Khan said the ministry was also looking at its own in-house cardiac department. “It is working out to be a cheaper run. The ministry has taken a decision to get more surgeries done for the same amount of money.” Khan said the month-to-month arrangement with CHCM “is working quite nicely while we explore internal options.” Khan said there are plans to bring back the Sai Baba doctors, who will not work with CHCM. “No, they will not work in tandem with anybody. I hope for them to take it over fully.”
He explained that millions have been spent by the ministry in heart care at both public and private hospitals. Khan said when a surgery is performed the Government puts out everything, except the surgeons. “We are not going to have one person or unit controlling everything. It is always good to have competitive advantage. So we are looking at bringing in some competition from a recognised firm to see if we could get price efficiency.”
The cost of heart surgeries and procedures, Khan said, were costing the ministry millions annually. Each cardiovascular surgery costs the State US$10,000. Rampersad, asked on Thursday if the CHCM’s contract will be renewed said, “I am getting promises that it will be. I am optimistic.”
Mohammed: We can’t halt a service provider from the public
On Thursday, chairman of the NCRHA Dr Shehenaz Mohammed said the ministry plans to renew the contract, but could not say for how long. She promised that there would be no work stoppage with CHCM. “They have been given the go ahead to continue, while we negotiate and work out further details.”
Mohammed said when they audited their Accident and Emergency Department at the EWMSC they discovered that 45 per cent of admissions were for cardiac care and surgeries. Approximately 300 patients are treated at the hospital daily.
“We are burdened with more cardiac patients. We are in the process of building the capacity of our in-house cardiology and cardiac surgery department. That, however, is not going to happen overnight because although we have a number of cardiologists, medical and interventional, we have one cardiac surgeon and two thoracic surgeons. We still have other expertise we need to get. This is an essential service. It cannot be stopped.”
Mohammed said the hospital has been asked to do two surgeries monthly but require a skilled profusionist. “At the end of the day we can’t halt a service provider from the public while we are trying to build our in-house. It has to run parallel.” Mohammed said the US-based Sai Baba doctors came to Trinidad a few months ago and performed 63 surgeries and procedures voluntarily. The doctors, Mohammed said, work for a Sai Baba organisation.
“We (ministry) did pay for the equipment and consumables. It was our cath labs that we were running and our doctors and nurses took part in it as well.”
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