The responsibility for care and protection for babies with microcephaly should be in the state’s hands since Government was late in responding to preparations for last year’s Zika mosquito epidemic and babies with Microcephaly were later born, says UNC MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh.
Gopeesingh was speaking in yesterday’s 2020 Budget debate in the Lower House.
Microcephaly, a condition where a baby’s head is smaller than normal, is caused by the Zika virus among other conditions.
Gopeesingh, accusing Government of being late in responding to the Zika outbreak, noted that four people died.
“Now, there are over 100 mothers whose babies have been affected. This (Microcephaly) a big burden for people to carry. It’s worse than cerebral palsy- children cannot walk, talk or move,” he added.
Gopeesingh also slammed Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh’s statement that the Couva hospital will be used in conjunction with UWI for medical tourism to help diversify the economy and earn by Forex. Deyalsingh said the hospital will be part of a corridor of health units including Mt Hope Hospital and UWI’s Debe campus catering to offshore medical students. Deyalsingh added that a shift has occurred in the US where accreditation is given for foreign medical schools and said that T&T must position itself for this.
But Gopeesingh, noting UWI is owned by Caribbean countries, said the hospital should be made available firstly for T&T citizens.
“Because Government owes UWI $200 million, you take taxpayers’ money, invested in a $2 billion hospital and give it to UWI to run. Giving UWI—which belongs to Caribbean countries—51 per cent of the hospital is giving them a $1 billion share! T&T taxpayers paid $2 billion for this!”
Saying the offshore medical school was “pie in the sky” he said St Georges’ University medical school was never recognised as it was seen as being of a lower standard. He added that Dominica, Montserrat and Antigua also have medical schools but their graduates have to go to the US for physical training—a concession a TT offshore school wouldn’t have.
On Deyalsingh’s claim the Couva hospital has done 1,564 diagnostics including MRIs and CTY scans, Gopeesingh noted its MRI machine had broken down.
Gopeesingh urged diabetic and hypertension patients to examine their blood sugar and hypertension levels since Government hadn’t heeded Opposition requests to change from “five-cent drugs” like Metformin and others. He said after 40 years, 40 per cent of Indo T&T citizens suffer from diabetes and 40 per cent of Afro T&T citizens, hypertension.
“There are a lot of strong-looking Afro TT men walking around with hypertension which develop into renal failure—Government has no programmes for this,” he said.
He said cervical cancer is preventable and health centres should be doing such checks.
“Women over 50 should have annual mammograms, men over 40, PSA tests. After prostate cancer, colon cancer is the second leading cause of men’s death,” he said adding a UNC Government would have programmes to deal with these and also build the Oncology Centre.
Gopeesingh slammed Deyalsingh’s view that the public was ungrateful regarding T&T’s free health services”.
“People are paying a Health Surcharge —they’re supposed to get proper treatment. The PNM Government isn’t giving it to them free. Apart from Health Surcharge, people are paying taxes which is used for this—so people are entitled to their health care,” he said, adding that the economy had stalled.
“The driver can’t drive”, Gopeesingh said as he cited this year’s highest national awardee, Chalkdust’s calypso.