THE North Central Regional Health Authority has defended the performances of its CEO Davlin Thomas and nurses employed at the RHA.
Thomas and the authority, in a lengthy media release, responded to a number of claims made against the CEO by Idi Stuart, president of the TT Registered Nurses Association (TTRNA), on Friday.
Stuart also called on Thomas to resign.
In a video posted online, he said many nurses had resigned from the NCRHA over the past month because of being overworked and other reasons.
He also claimed that some patients who died while being treated for covid19 never made it to the Intensive Care Unit or High Dependency Units because of internal issues.
Thomas was quoted in the statement as saying, "It is the NCRHA nurses and doctors and patient escorts and cleaners and other supporting staff who are at the tip of the spear in this covid19 fight."
That was in response to Stuart's assertion that critical care nurses on loan from the southwest and northwest regional bodies were the ones doing yeoman service, regularly working double shifts to keep the survival rate of patients up.
"NCRHA nurses have provided yeoman service, too!" said Thomas, who also praised: "NCRHA nurses and doctors and patient escorts and cleaners and other supporting staff....
"The investment of the NCRHA in its staff is intensive and deliberate to get the country past its current situation," he said. "Towards this intent 747 nurses were trained in a two-day boot-camp in critical care preparation for a worst-case scenario."
Thomas said beforethat training they also did in-house ICU training from March to July, beginning with 37 nurses, because, he said, "the NCHRA felt it necessary to prepare for additional inherent ICU support given the disposition of the covid19 disease."
He said the Ministry of Health simultaneously trained 46 NCHRA nurses in critical care.
In addition, "NCRHA moved most of the junior nurses and doctors who have responded to the clarion call and have joined the fight to engage the covid19 pandemic. These young professionals have received additional hands-on training and are currently working alongside more experienced nurses, and our training agenda continues."
The NCRHA, he added, is not just focused on increasing the competencies of its staff but also concerned about their mental well-being.
The nurses generally work four intense hours at a time in the "hot zone," he said, adding that staff are directly monitored by a team of psychiatric and psychological support.
The release also denied Stuart's claim about a mass resignation of NCRHA nurses over the month and that 200 were hired to replace them, saying, "A total of 21 nurses have resigned from the NCRHA, due to geographical location issues and three nurses returned to Tobago. All 21 of those nurses were hired under the UNDP IDB arrangement."
He said their contracts were inherently temporary and carried no benefits.
"The NCRHA," Thomas said, "has hired at least 100 new nurses (not 200) to address the needs of the covid19 step-down facilities.
He said the general manager of nursing services (GMNS) had asked to resign on two previous occasions owing to health concerns and the inherent related pressures of working in a covid19 environment.
"We were unable to acquiesce to her needs and asked that she recommend a suitable replacement. The GMNS recommended a replacement and resigned accordingly. Her NCRHA family wishes her the best.
On Stuart's claim that patients were waiting to be admitted to the two dependency units, the release said that while the Couva Hospital is filled, there is additional capacity at the Arima General Hospital, which is currently treating ICU patients, as well as the adult tower of the Couva Hospital.
"The HDU also has the inherent capacity to provide ICU care if required. So again Stuart is wrong," the statement read.
"He also claimed that the majority of patients who died never even made into ICU or HDU due to bed and human resource shortages, but ICU staff were always utilised from the other facilities to deal with any HR shortages and the majority of patients did in fact die died in ICU." It called Stuart’s claims "reckless, irresponsible and untrue."
On the suggestion that there were plans to open a second tower at the Couva Hospital, the statement continued: "The tower had already been opened, effective 11 August, 2020. Why would Idi Stuart suggest otherwise?"
The statement also addressed personal protective equipment (PPE) for nurses, saying there is an appropriate supply of scrubs and other PPE, distributed under strict controls to avoid wastage and pilfering.
AS evidence of this, it said, "There has been no hospital transmission of the disease to staff. Our materials management is robust."
In a rallying call, Thomas was quoted as saying, "The battle to save lives during this covid19 pandemic, requires us to relinquish...our personal goals and ambitions, if only for one brief moment, to focus, to put our best efforts to sacrifice selflessly to defeat this deadly threat."