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Tuesday 17 September 2019
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NO MONEY, NO DIALYSIS: Govt funding for St Clair Medical dries up

Minister of Health Terrance Deyalsingh couldn't be reached for comment on this issue. PHOTO BY AZLAN MOHAMMED.
Minister of Health Terrance Deyalsingh couldn't be reached for comment on this issue. PHOTO BY AZLAN MOHAMMED.

Hundreds of patients receiving government-subsidised dialysis treatment at St Clair Medical Centre, may soon have to seek care at other privately-owned dialysis centres - at exorbitant cost - if Government does not pay outstanding monies to the facility.

This, after the patients were reportedly told in a letter on Tuesday from the prominent medical facility that it had not received any money from government for the past nine months and is unwilling to continue its service. In fact, if government does not pay up, sources yesterday told Newsday, the patients will not be able to access much-needed dialysis treatment at St Clair Medical, under the current arrangement, beyond tomorrow.

The patients, many of whom are already contemplating their futures, were advised in the letter, to consult with the Ministry of Health’s External Patient Programme to be re-assigned to other private facilities. “The situation is placing many of us in a quandary. We are worried about what will happen because there are many patients who do not have health insurance and rely on the help they are currently getting from the government,” one patient said. Newsday learnt that one session of dialysis costs approximately $1,200, a quarter of which is paid by the patient. Medication can cost in excess of $550.

St Clair Medical sources told Newsday the facility had asked the ministry for all of its outstanding money. “But the ministry told us they have a limited budget and cannot pay all of the money because they have to share it with other dialysis units throughout the country so that it would not disrupt the programme,” one source said.

“But we said they want all our money so a decision was taken to shut down the programme completely.” Patients wishing to stay in the existing arrangement will now have to foot all of their costs or move to another dialysis centre where the fees are likely to be substantially higher.

“I know for a fact that many patients are afraid of being sent to a particular dialysis centre in east Trinidad because the machines there are not working properly,” one female patient said, alleging that eight patients died at the facility within recent months. She said many patients also have expressed concerns about having to re-do their initial procedures, including blood tests, at a new facility.

Newsday confirmed that patients at St Augustine Private Hospital Medical Centre, did not receive letters outlining a plan to discontinue the government-subsidised initiative. If so, hundreds more would have likely been seriously affected. St Augustine Medical Centre offers two, four-hour dialysis sessions, per day, catering to about 20 patients each while St Clair Medical operates three shifts catering to the same number of patients. Neither Health Minister Terrance Deyalsingh nor Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram could be reached for comment.

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