Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles has acknowledged the health sector is facing a number of challenges at the moment, but appealed for patience from the public as he claimed the issues were being addressed.
He was responding to a question from Newsday after a complaint by 68-year-old Yvonne Alexander, last Wednesday that the X-ray machine at the Scarborough General Hospital was not working. Alexander told Newsday her knee has been swelling constantly but when she went to the hospital for an X-ray she was told to return at a later date. Additionally, there have been reports that the CT and the MRI machines were also not working.
Charles said the authorities are aware of the problem and are importing the necessary parts to get the machines operating again.
“Parts have to come from abroad and those things take time. But I can’t confirm the status at this time. What I do know is that there are mobile units that are used in terms of the X-ray,” he said.
He said being proactive with one's health can ensure there is less need for CT scans.
“It’s easy to say, that is why we are pushing preventative and we’re saying get checked at an early stage. I go for regular screening, once a year, and at that point, once you go in regularly, you don’t need a CT scan. That comes in if there seems to be evidence that there may be cancer.
"But I’m saying that we’re moving to treat with prevention in a way that we haven’t done before. You also have to bear in mind that Rome wasn’t built in a day but it's built day by day.”
Charles said there is a demand for private healthcare services that the THA hopes to address.
“We have recognised that there are some challenges in the sector. That is why as part of our programme when we came to the people, we talked about decentralising some of these services to take the pressure away from the hospital.
“We don’t have private people doing healthcare as they do in Trinidad, and therefore the system here, from time to time, will be overwhelmed.”
Asked about the maintenance of the various machines at the hospital, Charles said staff at the institution have a responsibility.
“These are some of the things that we need to talk about sometimes. Perhaps the time has come when we need to understand that your taxpayers' money, that we try to use in particular ways, sometimes the purpose is defeated because of the attitude of some of those who work there, and you need to know that. Whilst we are held accountable – and I’m not saying we ought not to, but I’m saying that whilst we are held accountable, it is incidents like these – so the issue of maintenance (is important).”
Asked about the senior managers sent on administrative leave to facilitate a payroll audit, Charles said, “The audit is still going on. There was a delay because it was difficult to retrieve some documents at a particular point in time.”