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Relief for 48 Mt Hope patients

Published: 
Thursday, October 19, 2017
US docs do 53 surgeries in 3-and-a-half days
Joan Quamina, who recently got a knee operation, takes a step as, from left, Dr Monty Ahuja, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh, Arthur Joseph, who also had an operation done, and Dr Paul Khanuja look on at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex yesterday. PICTURE AYANNA KINSALE

For the past two years Joan Quamina was on a public waiting list for knee replacement surgery. Her other option was to pay $85,000 to have it done privately, which she could not afford.

But Quamina has recently been given a new lease on life after a group of volunteer doctors and medical professionals based in Maryland, USA, led by Dr Paul Khanuja, gave her that surgery through a project called “Operation Walk Maryland.”

The US doctors, who worked with a team of local surgeons and medical support staff, performed 53 hip, knee and related joint surgeries on 48 patients over three and a half days at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope.

“The bone was rubbing on the bone. It was very painful for me but now I feel great,” Quamina said yesterday at a press conference at the hospital, where Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh gave details of the initiative.

Deyalsingh said orthopaedic surgeries were expensive undertakings in this country, adding the project had saved taxpayers between $7 to $10 million. He said only eight of such surgeries were performed locally each year, resulting in a huge backlog of cases at Mt Hope.

“Taxpayers have not been getting value for money. If we could do 53 surgeries in three and a half days, why were we only doing eight in one year? As far as orthopaedic surgeries are concerned, Eric Williams had the worst record when it came to having a backlog. San Fernando General, Port-of-Spain and Eastern Regional Health Authority did not have such a backlog,” Deyalsingh said.

The backlog, he said, was also a result of poor leadership. However, he said this would no longer occur as “doctors were now free to practice medicine as medicine ought to be practised.”

On why only eight of such surgeries were done per year by local doctors, Deyalsingh said he told the board this must now be driven by performance indicators.

“We would also be setting targets because you can’t have your operating theatres idle for all sorts of reasons ... doctors are now coming to say, ‘Minister at last there is someone who can listen. They are saying we want to perform surgeries and we want to serve the public.

“But there is now a culture change taking place and because of that we are getting more surgeries done in house rather than taxpayers having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to do it privately,” Deyalsingh said.

Pressed on what was the specific problem hampering doctors from performing operations, he said it was “leadership in all factors.”

He said in October 2016 he read the riot act to the NCRHA and demanded they come up with a turnaround plan in six months. The work performed over the last five days, he said, was as a result of that turnaround, adding it was not due to hard work but rather taking hard decisions. He said the only way to improve the health care system was to have everything focused around the patient.