Division of Health has been collaborating with stakeholders to improve healthcare in Tobago, with a main thrust being a review of the operations of the Tobago Regional Health Authority and its funding challenges due “a large debt inherited.”
Health Secretary Dr Agatha Carrington, speaking at last Wednesday’s post Executive Council media briefing at the Victor E Bruce Financial Complex in Scarborough, said lack of supplies at the Scarborough General Hospital were a result of vendors restricting credit to the TRHA.
Asked about reports of shortages of critical medicine and supplies at the, hospital, Carrington denied this was the case, that supplies that were in short supply was a result of the TRHA not having funds.
“I disagree (with there being shortages of critical medicine and supplies at the hospital) because now you would have to say to me for what disease conditions people have not been able to get their drugs. We have priorities in the population and our list is responsive to that list of priorities,” she told reporters.
“I agree that in terms of other materials and the timely provision of that and other reagents at the laboratory, because of the situation… the legacy issue of not having adequate funding to meet the large debt inherited, suppliers have restricted their credit in some of those circumstances and in those circumstances, we have had challenges in terms of the response we would give,” Carrington said.
On the review of the TRHA operations, she said funding was a main challenge due to a “significant debt to be cleared.” She did not say how much was this debt.
“The board came into office six months ago and they have had to confront various challenges, one of which is the legacy issue of having meeting quite a significant debt to be cleared in an environment where funds are limited or less than adequate to respond,” she said.
She identified specific achievements of the TRHA board as improvement to services in the emergency room in terms of the extended hours and providing required staff for three health centres - Roxborough, Scarborough and Canaan.
Carrington said the Board has also addressed matters of outstanding terms and conditions of TRHA employees.
“We would insist that our hardworking staff, that these matters are addressed. We ae challenged by the fact that the support staff who are supposed to be engaged in ensuring that we have all the data to respond to these terms and conditions, that has not been adequately addressed, but I know the team at the TRHA would ensure that all the documentation is ready such that when it is time for us to make good or to pay these terms and conditions that those can be addressed. We look forward to ensuring that we meet those terms and conditions as agreed,” she said.
Asked about the resignation of TRHA board member, PNM Tobago Council Chairman Stanford Callendar, as Director Public Interest and Welfare, Carrington confirmed this development, stating:
“That’s not a rumour and resignations take place all the time. We’ve had a director, who for certain very important reasons, he has discussed with myself and the Chief Secretary, has asked that he be relieved. He has not left in any situation of discord, but he has a particular circumstance. He has since submitted his communication and we are expected to forward that to the President,” she said.
She said Callendar submitted his resignation effective December 1 an that no one has been appointed to replace him.
Carrington also reported on the work of the Health Division, reporting that the focus was on building capacity in response to the healthcare needs of Tobago’s residents.
“We are doing the cancer research, we are building the capacity of our professionals to treat with some care protocols and therefore, just last month we ensured that many of our professionals were exposed to care protocols and guidelines in a training workshop, thereby providing them with the knowledge of dealing with cancer.”
In terms of health care infrastructure, Carrington said work was ongoing for staff facilities at the Plymouth public cemetery and the Studley Park disposal area.
“The facilities at the Studley Park disposal area requires attention and therefore, we have already approved and issued a tender to the sum of $520,000 to upgrade the facilities for staff. The specified area has been in disrepair for a number of years,” she said.
Office space and pantry for the caretaker of Plymouth’s public cemetery, washroom facilities for the public and a store room for tools are among items in phase-one $427,542 upgrade project.
Carrington also said work would begin shortly on an upgrade of the Roxborough Health Centre.
“The old Roxborough Health Centre requires some upgrade while we await the construction of a new facility and therefore that project is also the commence shortly,” she said.
At a November post-Executive Council briefing, Carrington had reported on the setting up of a medical assistance committee, including a finance person to assess requests from assistance from persons requiring medical care not available on Tobago.
She also noted the setting up of a Tobago AIDS Coordinating Committee in the Office of the Chief Secretary with support from the Division of Health.
She also noted that started of a research for the breast cancer study, beginning December 10, for a week, supported by Rudgers University in Washington School of Medicine
In this month, she had reported that an offsite record centre would be launched by the Division.
“On assuming office, this was not a priority, but we’ve made it a priority because persons, when they work and retire, we would want to have them receive their retirement benefits in record time and so that we intend to launch that in January. So too our policy research and planning unit, that is also to be launched in January,” she said.