OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar says the 2015-2016 Budget did not provide enough for health care in Trinidad and Tobago. Speaking during a news conference after Finance Minister Colm Imbert presented the $63 billion budget in Parliament, at Tower D, Wrightson Road on Monday, Persad-Bissessar said there did not seem to be any emphasis on hospitals.
She said there was no mention made of the Point Fortin or the Arima hospitals, both of which were scheduled to be constructed by the People’s Partnership, had they won the general election.
“They did not build, in the last five years before we came in, a single hospital. The last hospital built in Trinidad and Tobago was the Mt Hope Hospital back in 1981 or so.
But, what is more disturbing, is you have a completed hospital (Couva Children’s Hospital) and no mention was made of that one either, so we wait to see,” she said.
Former Health Minister and San Juan / Barataria MP, Dr Fuad Khan, said the budget was a short one and with health being an important topic, not much time was given to the development of the health sector.
“Maybe the minister will say more. One of the things that struck me was for the refurbishment of the old hospitals which most of the old hospitals are not internationally accredited and they won’t be accredited.
So, we are looking at hospitals that are not accredited, need a lot of refurbishment and that is going to cost a lot, and you are not going to get exactly what the international market deserves or requires,” Khan said.
“There is no mention of Couva Children’s Hospital or what is going to happen there. All I have heard is that they are not going to go forward with it, but that is just hearsay.
The Point Fortin Hospital, nothing was said, and neither was the Arima Hospital. The minister also said he was going to review the hospitals’ plans, so I am just waiting to see exactly what is going to occur with the infrastructure. As for the universal National Health Insurance by 2018, I wish them well, and I heard nothing about the health card which was the start of that national health insurance. I am waiting to see exactly how they are going to do that one,” Khan added.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said he would say more about the health allocation, which was $6.088 billion, during the budget debate.
During his presentation, Imbert said the public health facilities, with deteriorating infrastructure, were not patient-friendly and, with acute shortages of medical personnel, the patient experience left much to be desired. He said Government would review the existing hospital strategy through a scientific evidence-driven Hospital Construction and Refurbishment Plan and where necessary, refurbish and modernise the existing ageing plant, and construct new heath facilities where they were required.
Imbert said rather than waste money on “expensive white elephants and vanity projects”, they would expend substantial resources on training opportunities in all areas of health care, including support staff in professions allied to medicine, particularly in the field of nursing. “Our goal is to establish universal health coverage for the national community,” he said.
“We will continue to strengthen and build programmes to meet the diverse medical needs of the national community. We will expedite surgeries and expand and improve the Chronic Disease Assistance Programme (CDAP). We will continue with our medical aid programmes for patients in need, and we will review and audit the Children’s Life Fund so as to restore its mandate of saving the lives of children,” he said..
The minister also assured that the National Health Insurance System would be in place and operational, by December 31, 2018 thus bringing much-needed relief to all our citizens