FORMER health minister Dr Fuad Khan on Monday defended the Prime Minister’s decision to seek medical treatment at a private facility rather than a public hospital, saying anyone who could have would have done the same.
Khan spoke to Newsday following some public criticism of Dr Rowley’s treatment at West Shore Medical Private Hospital, Cocorite, where he had an angiogram test and an angioplasty procedure last weekend.
Rowley went to the hospital on Friday after feeling discomfort, and on Saturday after several tests he had surgery to clear blocked arteries. He left the hospital on Sunday, since when he has been said to be home resting comfortably.
Khan told Newsday, “Do you want my honest opinion?
"I think people who say those things about politicians are a bunch of basically jealous people.
“If a politician wants to use a private institution for things like cardiac function, there’s nothing wrong with that. If he doesn’t choose to go to a public institution, that’s their choice. It’s not to say that they figure it’s bad and it’s this and it’s that.”
He said Cabinet ministers were entitled to this and according to the Salary Review Commission (SRC) the PM is entitled to get his medical costs paid for treatment wherever he desires, though he requires Cabinet approval for treatment abroad.
“Where such medical attention/treatment is not available at such health care facility, the costs at any other hospital, institution or nursing home in TTto be met by the State.”
“People who are bawling down the place, ‘Why you don’t go public?’ and, ‘Why you don’t go this?’ and, ‘Why you don’t go that?’ – I think at the end of the day people have choice in this country and use their choices.”
Newsday asked if a politician might be seen as using his private wealth or public influence to gain preferential access to healthcare.
“The person who says he should use the public institution because of humbleness, I personally think that is hogwash. They should not run their mouth just because a politician is using what the SRC said they are entitled to. When you are entitled to something there is nothing wrong in using it, so why should a politician go to a public institution to show camaraderie with a person who can’t afford to go private?"
Khan said people go to a public institution because they cannot afford private ones.
“Everyone who is bawling that he should have gone public – if they had the choice they would have gone private, but they can't afford it, but go public.
“At the end of the day they just mouthing off something, because like everybody else in this country, they like to promote a victim syndrome.”
Khan said while in office he had been developing a national health insurance plan to let each citizen choose medical treatment in the public or private sector.
Newsday also contacted Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, who merely replied, "I am in a very important meeting dealing with vaccine procurement for TT, which I consider to be of utmost importance at this time for the people of TT."
What the SRC says:
The 98th SRC Report lists the Prime Minister’s terms and conditions, including medical care. It says, “Entitlement to medical attention/treatment and prescribed drugs for self, spouse and children who are unmarried and under the age of 18, at any health care facility under the Regional Health Authorities, including the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex.