A big waste is how the Medical Professional Association of T&T (MPATT) describes payment of more than $100 million to private health institutions by the Regional Health Authorities.
The payments were made during an 18-month period, sources told The Sunday Guardian. MPATT President, Dr Colin Furlonge, said grave mismanagement had been taking place at the RHAs since the start of health care reform. He said instead of reform, the RHAs had caused health care services to go from bad to worse.
"We have not been investing in health care. Since the enactment of the RHA Act in 1994, things have got worse, and there has been a spiral deterioration in the services and questionable funding."
According to Furlonge, the RHAs were managed poorly by people who had no experience in health care. The Ministry of Health, under which the RHAs fall, was allocated $3.6 billion in the 2009-2010 budget.
New ward opens today
Chairman of the North/Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) Howard Dottin, however, in defending the NCRHA's $42-million payment to three private hospitals–two in the West and one along the East-West Corridor–said because of a lack of accommodation and the unavailability of neurological services at the general hospitals, patients had to be transferred to private institutions.
"What has happened is that the general hospitals may not have the capabilities to deal with some of the patients' medical requirements.
"What we are doing is attempting to open up more facilities in order to get to a level where we do not have to rely on the private hospitals."
He said a new ward to accommodate 24 beds would be opened today. By month-end, another one, with a further 20-plus beds, would be made available at the EWMSC.
'Someone must account'
Dr Furlonge, though, seemed unimpressed by Dottin's remarks.
He said there should be an investigation to determine how many people might have died because of the absence of neurological facilities and surgeons at San Fernando General Hospital and the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex.
"I am certain lives would have been saved if their were neurosurgeons at SFGH when the accident occurred on the Creek, a few weeks ago, and several persons were killed..."
He said the neurological departments at the hospitals were being operated by members of staff not qualified as neurosurgeons.
Furlonge claimed that neurosurgeons who made their services available to the hospitals were never hired by the RHAs.
"It was not an issue of not having manpower available; it is the administration who is absolutely responsible, and somebody must be held accountable for all the millions being spent on private institutions," Furlonge said.
On the issue of bed shortages, Furlonge said the 1980 health plan was to increase beds from 2,084 to 3,281, but health sector reform suggested fewer beds at the facilities, and that patients should be treated at home.
"They actually cut down on beds, instead of increasing it...But, now, after they realised a mistake was made they are trying to open up beds.
"But beds are not the issue. It's the services which go with the beds."
Attempts to contact Health Minister Jerry Narace on the issue proved futile, as calls and a text message sent to his phone yesterday were not acknowledged.
Dottin: Aigle still NCRHA CEO
Dottin also dismissed media reports that the NCRHA's Ag CEO Ms Washington Aigle was sent packing from the authority.
"I have heard that rumour on the news and do not know where it came from. As far as I am aware, at this point in time, she (Ms Aigle) is still the ag CEO of the North Central Regional Health Authority," Dottin added.