Since the PNM took office in 2015 the nation has witnessed the collapse of our national security defenses, physical infrastructure and economy, and this trend continues as a ceiling of the San Fernando General Hospital crumbled and fell within the Burns Unit where several patients were warded. While no one suffered any further injuries to complicate the ones they were already being treated for, these patients have only God or blind luck to thank for their wellbeing. The larger issue is that early assessment suggest the infrastructure of the entire floor may be compromised, which may warrant substantive renovations. Whether or not this is the case however, it is clear that the San Fernando General Hospital is in need of repair and alternative arrangements need to be put in place to ensure the safety of the patients who are there to be treated for their existing ailments.
Only two days prior to this incident, there were also reports that the Point Fortin Area Hospital was left in perpetual darkness when the generator failed during a power outage. Thankfully again, tragedy was averted by pure happenstance, but that luck will run out eventually. While there is no doubt that if pressed the Prime Minister or Minister of Health will find some roundabout means to blame the former administration for these accidents, the fact is that they both have been sitting in office for two and a half years but lack the knowhow or foresight to ensure such accidents do not occur. Because in particular, the incident which occurred at the San Fernando General hospital could have and should have been avoided if the PNM had been utilizing the facilities at the Couva Children’s Hospital as was planned before they arrived in government.
Since vacating the role of Minister of Health it might appear that both I and the Opposition bench have beaten this horse to death in a futile attempt to have the facility opened to service the needs of the public. While we do not suggest that this hospital is the be-all-end-all solution for the public health sector, in this instance the utilization of these facilities could have prevented the calamity from occurring. The Burns and Plastics Unit at the Couva Children’s Hospital contains some the most sophisticated equipment in the region for treating patients and would have attracted the top specialists in the field to work and study new methods of treatment. Moreover, these facilities could have been used to relocate the patients at the San Fernando General Hospital when the leakage and water-logging of the roof was first discovered, thereby allowing the relevant authorities the time and space to attend to the problem before the ceiling collapsed.
As the PNM continue to grapple with their lack of ideas or solutions to the problems they have themselves created, it is either jealousy or pride that prevents them from utilizing the tools provided to them by the People’s Partnership administration. While they continue to struggle with the burden of government however, it is the citizens, both those who support and those who oppose the PNM, that are suffering from their inaction. So the question is, how much of the old infrastructure needs to crumble before this PNM government adopts the new ones that have been put in place? How much must people endure before the riots begin as the Minister of Finance once suggested? And how long will the PNM continue to occupy the government offices without a clue of what needs to be done to correct the mistakes they have continually been making?
I am therefore calling on the Minister of Health to use this opportunity to roll out the commencement of services at the Couva Children’s Hospital on a phase basis, beginning with the patients at the San Fernando Burns Unit who are now misplaced within the Hospital. The citizens of Trinidad and Tobago deserve a better standard of health care, which includes facilities that not on the verge of collapsing upon them, and the Couva Children’s Hospital was constructed with that need in mind. It is a sin to allow such state-of-the-art equipment to be housed in a facility that has been unutilized for over two years following its opening. Because in the absence of this, the PNM may have to consider sending persons oversees to attain the same standard of treatment, unless they be considered biased to only do so for one of their Ministers.
Dr Fuad Khan
Former Minister of Health