The litany of woes described by patients trying to access care at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex as reported in today’s Sunday Express newspaper, must surely be a cause for concern for those citizens who depend solely on the public healthcare system.
The stories of long waiting times in overcrowded tents, complemented by poor and insensitive customer service by certain healthcare workers, adds to the burden of citizens already stressed by challenging economic circumstances.
It is ironical that whilst Trinidad and Tobago is in the fortunate position of having a “parallel health care system” to deal with COVID-19 cases, the conditions in the regular health system are worsening.
One has to ask the question as to why this is so, especially when there are separate spaces and a separate budget for the parallel healthcare system. The regular annual budget of over 5 billion dollars for the health sector, approved in the 2021 Budget, was supplemented by the approval of millions of additional taxpayer dollars for the treatment of COVID-19. The Couva Hospital, Caura Hospital, Arima Hospital and Augustus Long Hospital have been utilized exclusively for treating COVID-19 patients, with the expectation that regular services would be available at the San Fernando General Hospital, Port of Spain Hospital and Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex.
The issue of deferred elective surgeries and clinic appointments, extended waiting times for blood tests, ultrasound and other critical investigations, and long waiting times to see doctors at outpatient clinics is also something rearing its head at the other major healthcare institutions in our nation.
Understandably, in the early days of the pandemic, certain non-urgent services would have been curtailed to provide extra capacity in the regular hospitals if required.
However, the long delays in treating patients with chronic diseases, especially diabetes and hypertension, and the deferring of surgeries, will only increase the burden of disease on the health sector and put us in a worse position when the pandemic is eventually conquered.
Is it poor management at the RHA level or is it the failure of the Government to provide the resources so urgently required by our healthcare workers who continue to provide yeoman service in the face of difficult circumstances?
It is a cruel irony that whilst the poor services at the flagship institution of the NCRHA are highlighted on the front page of today’s Express newspaper, a paid advertisement by the NCRHA appears on page 24 of the same newspaper, patting itself on the shoulder for saving lives, a basic function of any healthcare system!
The Minister of Health needs to act quickly if a further deterioration of healthcare provision in the regular healthcare system is to be avoided.
MP for Fyzabad – Dr. Lackram Bodoe