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Friday 6 December 2019
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Health unwell under Carrington

PDP calls for Secretary's firing

Minority Assemblyman Farley Augustine at the Progressive Democratic Patriots election campaign launch on October 27. - DAVID REID
Minority Assemblyman Farley Augustine at the Progressive Democratic Patriots election campaign launch on October 27. - DAVID REID

The Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) has called for the removal of Dr Agatha Carrington as Secretary for Health, Wellness and Family Development in the Tobago House of Assembly.

Addressing a news conference at the PDP's headquarters in Scarborough on November 20, Assemblyman Farley Augustine said the island's health sector is facing what he called "a crisis in leadership."

As such, he said the sector's limited resources needed to be more efficiently disbursed and utilised.

"We believe that we are still not getting forthright responses when it comes to health care and the management of health care on the island. And we haven't done so officially but we are joining the chorus from several quarters in Tobago that have been calling on the Chief Secretary (Kelvin Charles) to get rid of the Secretary of Health," he told reporters.

"So, we are going to officially join those bands of choruses and lend our voices to it. We think that she has done a terrible job of managing the sector."

Citing the firing of Medical Chief of Staff Dr Rufaro Celestine on November 15 as an example, Augustine noted she had not even spent a year on the job but was sent home for highlighting the challenges in the sector.

He added: "So, what the secretary of health and the executive council wants is really health administrators who will just be silent and cover up all of the inefficiencies within the system."

Augustine said Head of Department, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Dr Victor Wheeler, whom the Tobago Regional Health Authority has since given the responsibility for clinical oversight at Scarborough General Hospital, has a mammoth task ahead of him.

"He has sat in that position before and we have always treated him badly. We will use him as a stop-gap measure when there is no one else and when we find a friend, we kick him out. That is how we have been treating Dr Wheeler for a while."

Alluding to the opening of the Men's Health and Wellness Blue Room at the site of the old Scarborough Hospital on November 19, Augustine observed:

"Notwithstanding all of the posturing and the optics, health care is not doing well. We are still at a situation where we have four senior managers who are still on administrative leave. It has been close to nine months that they have been on leave with pay and there has been no resolution to that issue."

The Speyside/L'Anse Fourmi/Parlatuvier representative claimed vehicles assigned to the sector are constantly "breaking down" because there is no money to buy gas.

"What we have is a crisis of our own making. We understand that things are not perfect and that we have limited resources, and with the limited resources we are stretching those resources even more thinly, as we try to open a plethora of clinics without even an indication as to where we are getting the resources from to fund these clinics."

Augustine recalled when his late mother was ill, he tried to get a mammogram done for her at the Women's Health Services/Pink Room and Breast Health Clinic in Louis D'Or.

"But that was not even available at the Pink Room. So, what is the point of having a Pink Room with the intention of treating with women's issues and cancers and you cannot get a mammogram done there?

"Why not consolidate your resources and try your best to make those that we do have at our hospitals and health centres more efficient, than trying to open several clinics for the sole purpose of taking a picture and cutting a ribbon and not having enough resources to man all of these facilities, because what we are doing, in essence, is pulling even more resources away from the hospital and established clinics."

In condemning Carrington's leadership, the PDP has joined a chorus of voices calling for her to be fired over her handling of the sector since the Kelvin Charles-led administration assumed office in 2017.

This culminated in an online petition which has already garnered more than 2,600 signatures.

Charles has since announced plans to establish a task force to investigate the problems affecting the health sector.

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