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Concerns raised over EHS response in high-risk areas

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Officials from the Ministry of Health and the North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) are seeking the public’s assistance in devising a method whereby emergency health personnel can be made to feel safe, so they can respond to calls in a timely manner, from residents living in “high-risk crime areas.” The invitation was issued by the NWRHA’s CEO Judith Baliram during a public board meeting at the National Library, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.



Baliram was responding to a concern by Alderman Rono Callender of the Port-of-Spain City Corporation that the insistence of EHS workers not to go to high-risk areas without a police escort had led to the untimely death of an elderly Port-of-Spain woman. Callender raised the issue during the question and answer segment, in which he related that a woman known as Ms Margaret, of Riley Trace, East Dry River, died on July 9, while awaiting medical attention.


Recalling the facts yesterday, Callender said 45 minutes elapsed between the time he contacted the EHS and the time the workers arrived on the scene because they had refused to enter the area without a police escort. Callender said the woman had complained of feeling unwell but by the time the ambulance arrived she was already dead.


Highlighting the issue, Callender said the very same EHS workers were not “afraid” to stop to purchase food and other supplies in the Port-of-Spain area, yet they insisted on a police escort when they had to respond to calls for help by the public. Indicating they were willing to work with the regional health authorities and the Ministries of Health and National Security to address the matter, Baliram invited suggestions on how that could be achieved.


The NWRHA hosted its annual public board meeting yesterday, during which they presented an overview of the projects currently underway and future plans. Revealing that officials are expected to turn the sod to begin construction of the new Carenage Health Centre tomorrow, Baliram said they remained committed to other projects that had already started at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital. Those included the installation of a new elevator at the north block, construction of a platform for a CT scanner and paving works, he noted.


Baliram said the NWRHA had been working to improve its services and infrastructure at PoSGH, the St James Medical Sciences Complex and St Ann’s Hospital, as they sought to expand operations throughout the region. Encouraging the public to continue partnering with officials to move the process forward and satisfy their needs, she said the introduction of extended clinic hours was one example of the authority’s attempt to better serve the public.


Several outreach initiatives, both at the school and community levels, have also been introduced. These include health and wellness fairs, school health programmes at both the primary and secondary levels, health workshops offering free testing in a number of areas, mental health workshops and specialist pediatric clinics.


During her presentation of the NWRHA’s performance and achievement record for 2013/2014, Baliram said it had carried out several projects at health centres in San Juan, Oxford Street, Santa Cruz and Diego Martin as part of its mandate to improve the quality of services offered to the public. New equipment was also acquired and with infrastructural upgrades continuing, Baliram said efforts were also made to settle outstanding wage negotiations with monthly and daily paid staff.


During the question and answer segment, Baliram said while the plan for the new Port-of-Spain General Hospital had been submitted to the ministry on July 8, it was not included in the 2013/2014 fiscal year. The authorities also hope to start work on the new Diego Martin Health Centre and has promised that short-term measures to improve the physical facilities at the PoSGH will be completed soon.


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