Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Healthy Response...

As some of you may know the Minister of Health and I have been having a bit of a public disagreement over the deplorable state of our ambulance service and by extension the public health sector, and while some have taken to making this political I have absolutely no interest in going down those roads with this most serious of issues.

I reject the notion that four and a half years was not enough time to fix our ambulance service and casualty department if not our health sector as a whole, and i dismiss the idea that the last administration's mismanagement is responsible for ours.

The truth of the matter is that nothing of substance has been done to reinvent what we have lamented for years to be a dysfunctional caricature of a public health service, yet it boggles my mind that all of this time and money spent, we have no improvements of any value to show for it.

Yes i am thankful that a Children's Hospital is under construction and that the Tobago Hospital was finally finished. I applaud the re-purposing of the Chancery Lane complex into an addition to the San Fernando General Hospital, yet our people are still dying waiting for an ambulance if one ever bothers to show up, are treated worse than animals if they ever need emergency treatment at our casualty departments, and even worse than that should they require a longer hospital stay.

In response the Minister of Health has taken to attacking me for speaking out, but how much longer must we wait?

Blaming the staff, the systems and the equipment for the sorry state of affairs reminds me of the statement attribute to Confucius, who said "Only a poor workman blames his tools."

I put to the Minister of Health and the entire national community that this is simply not good enough, that the blame game is tired, and that the Minister himself has to accept the epic failures of his term in office.

My recommendation to him is to cease the defensive posture and the public sniping and either get to work fixing what passes for our health sector or step down and make space for someone who can.

We need nothing less than the declaration of a public state of emergency on our health sector where all of the resources of state are made available to bring relief to the public in the soonest possible time. The old people say the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Start there. Fix Casualty. Make our Emergency Response the envy of the civilized world. We have the money to do it, so why not the political will? Remove the ambulances service from under the Ministry of Health and reassign it to the Ministry of National Security. Not out of spite, but because the Ministry of National Security is already in the business of emergency response and possesses advanced and sophisticated tools and technology through the National Operations Centre to control, manage, dispatch and monitor. This could be done in the immediate short term and bring real and substantial relief.

We also need to release the burden on the Casualty Departments and on the public by the creation of at least forty one Health centers compete with emergency rooms set up to treat with minor emergencies open twenty four hours a day seven days a week, leaving the real casualty departments to treat with the life threatening stuff.

Finally the beds. If we cannot privatize the hospital service then surely we can privatize the property management and security of our facilities. There are Companies that specialize in building maintenance, serve and equipping, and if we do this, if we can leave nothing but the medical management to the medical staff, we would create an environment where everyone is encouraged to succeed.

This is not rocket science but ideas and suggestions, and as sure as i am that there are better ideas and suggestions out there equally workable, I am equally sure that we are blessed to have some marvellous medical professionals who, if motivated to, could make this country's health sector something that serves the people instead of frustrating them. Whatever is the obstacle to progress that is retarding this type of redevelopment needs to be identified and removed, but please, don't waste my time telling me that low level public servants are the source of our concern. Trinidadians are by and large good people, and it has been my experience that those who choose to work in health are usually those with a heart for people and service. We are doing something wrong if our own people are against us, and perhaps we need to be honest with our introspection if what we want in the end is a health sector that serves us all.

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