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South private hospitals say they stand ready to partner with the Health Ministry to help reduce the backlog of cases at the over-burdened public health institutions. Yesterday Dr Anirudh Mahabir, director at Surgi-Med Clinic and Dr Rupert Indar, CEO of Southern Medical Clinic, both San Fernando based institutions, welcomed the initiative since it will help ease the pressure on the public health sector institutions. On Wednesday, Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan, speaking at the launch of the External Patient Programme, announced plans to partner with private institutions to clear the backlog of surgeries, CT scans, MRIs and other health services.
Yesterday the T&T Guardian contacted officials at St Clair Medical, St Augustine Private Hospital and West Shore Medical, as well as, Surgi-Med Clinic and Southern Medical Clinic to gauge their responses to the proposed plan. However, only Mahabir and Indar were available to comment. Both doctors agreed that Khan’s plan would make a difference in delivering medical care to citizens. Mahabir said Surgi-Med, a 36-bed hospital, has all the services necessary to help address the delays and backlog in the public health sector. “If the government service does not have the capacity and if private service has the capacity and the ability then the citizenry deserves the medical care that they need,” he said.
In fact, Mahabir said, “We do have excess capacity right now and we do welcome the minister’s initiative.” Indar shared Mahabir’s views. “Our work is always complementary to the Ministry of Health so we work with them very closely in everything and they have invited our services in four or five different categories and we have responded. It (the plan) will help. The demand outstrips the supply in health and the private institutions are assisting,” said Indar.
Ironically, in 2012 Khan admitted that it was too costly to outsource medical procedures. Responding to a question on the Order Paper by Independent Senator Harold Ramkissoon in the Senate said $164 million was spent by health authorities for outsourcing services for the period 2009-2010. Khan, in a newspaper interview after his statement said the exorbitant figures were the driving force for him to stop all outsourcing to private hospitals except with the authority of the minister or the Chief Medical Officer (CMO). During that period, some private hospitals had raised concerns over delays in payment for outsourced services.