Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Minority Leader Watson Duke has blamed politics for there being no forensic pathologists to carry out autopsies in Tobago.
Duke's comment comes after the family of murder victim Mark Nurse complained that his body has been in the mortuary on ice for three weeks. Nurse, who was an MI4 security officer, was Tobago’s tenth murder victim for 2019. He was shot dead outside Penny Savers Supermarket on December 19 in Carnbee.
His wife, Clarissa Joseph-Nurse told Newsday she is unable to complete funeral arrangements. Police said they are struggling to get a forensic pathologist from Trinidad to come over to Tobago.
Additionally, the body of Taury Ramsey, 20, Tobago’s first road fatality for 2020, also remains at the mortuary and according to his mother, Grace Davis, an autopsy is not likely to be performed anytime soon. In a recent interview, Davis told Newsday that the situation is preventing the family from making funeral arrangements and getting closure.
Speaking with Newsday on Monday, Duke said Tobago continues to suffer because of its ties to Trinidad.
“Trinidad is controlling the 'pull strings' as to whether or not such persons can be employed in Tobago.
“We need to cut free from that. We need independence, and as such, Tobago must be able to hire its own pathologist. Tobago must be able to operate with a certain level of independence from Trinidad and only until such time we would be in a position to recruit the best and the brightest without politics getting involved, as is happening right now.
"Right now, its politics getting involved, that is why there is no pathologists been employed to carry out that type of work in Tobago,” he said.
Minority Assemblyman Farley Augustine concurred with his Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) leader.
“It is a disgrace that in 2020 we still can’t get this right. This is a long-standing problem and it is not just in the area of forensic pathology.
“Families have been opting out of having autopsies done because the wait time is ridiculous. Families have had to delay the burying of love ones while waiting without assurances. We have even had instances where the assigned pathologist had refused to work because he wasn’t paid for a while,” he said adding that interestingly, there are two pathologists from Tobago that can be engaged on contract temporarily to have the system running smoothly.
“I have no idea why that isn’t being considered in the interim until we put in place a more permanent arrangement.
“But it is a shame that you will receive poor health care owing to malfunctioning machinery and systems, and should you die, your family cannot get the decency of an autopsy for closure. New year, same madness running health care in Tobago,” Augustine said.
Contacted for comment, CEO at the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) Sheldon Cyrus said the TRHA has pathologists that come from Trinidad on a regular basis to complete autopsies, however in the case of forensic pathologist, such pathologists are sent by the Ministry of National Security.
“Late last week, I got word that a forensic pathologist will perform those autopsies tomorrow (January 7). For the day, I have heard nothing further, so I am still hopeful,” he said