Monday, August 19, 2013

Tobago’s Failing Health System

A viewpoint of the Tobago Organisation of the People

The PNM-led THA, who leads in Tobago’s health care system, is quickly having its credibility with the public eroded in this area. The main reason is the PNM-led THA is collective failure to credibly lead Tobago in its journey to a health care system that is safe, accommodating and comfortable, as well as one that cares for all Tobagonians, and one that is free from nepotism, cronyism, favouritism and corruption.

The latest of such blows to the PNM-led THA’s credibility in health care; is that of the hospital laundry and the recruiting methods at the newly built hospital. The hospital laundry was said to be completed in 2012 after much work and overtime cost were incurred. This was done to allow Tobagonians to perceive that the PNM was performing and could have built a building without the stigma of cost overruns and construction delays leading up to the 2013 THA election. However, a project which was needed since 2004, Tobagonians are not aware of its cost or contractor deals. The laundry has been closed since then and the employees at the institution were asked to attend work at the laundry every day. These employees were paid for doing nothing and many of them became frustrated and sought employment elsewhere.

Since then the PNM-led THA has been sending the Scarborough Hospital linens to Trinidad to be washed and sterilised. Hospital linens need special laundering as they contain a high level of bacteria, germs and fungi and must be washed and sterilised at a certain temperature to eliminate these dangerous contents. Knowing and understanding this, a hospital laundry should have been a high priority to the PNM-led THA. This building should have been completed and in operation seven years ago. In the absence of a functioning laundry at the Tobago hospital, it means that there is an increase in the cost to maintain the hospital linens. The Secretary for Health and Social Service is fully aware of the mounting cost to Tobagonians and Tobago. However, this visionless PNM has not seen it fit to outfit the Tobago hospital laundry and have it operational. This column was reliably informed that to get the linens to Trinidad it requires a truck, driver and employees. The driver and loaders are paid overtime every time they are sent to Trinidad because of the time the boat travels. In many cases the employees are anxious to return to Tobago to meet their family and friends and in many cases have to leave linens that are not completed by the Trinidad laundry when it is time to board the boat. The linens are not accounted for and in many cases the hospital does not recover these linens. This is an additional cost to Tobagonians.

Notwithstanding this, the PNM is now contemplating leasing the laundry to a Chinese company. The Tobago Organisation of the People was reliably informed that negotiations are on-going presently with this company to lease the building. The source has informed this column that the reason the arrangement has not been completed is due to the incompletion of the laundry. It is said that the company was shocked when it visited the laundry which the PNM-led THA claimed was finished. This situation has turned the entire negotiations into a tailspin. The Chinese company is now seeking to complete the laundry at a huge cost to Tobago’s taxpayers. The source further stated that the laundry is not equipped; some of the important areas like the tumbling room are still incomplete. It is been said that by the time the negotiation is completed, the company will have to re-wire the laundry as it has a lot of faulty wiring and will not be able to accommodate the machines needed for such laundry. 

What is further devastating is that this company is going to lease the laundry which was built with Tobago people’s money and charge the THA to wash and sterilise Tobago’s Hospital linens at a higher cost than Trinidad. It was mentioned that the company intends to recover its cost for the lease of the laundry in four years and will be charging higher than the market price to handle the hospital and health centres linens. It is scandalous that after millions was spent on a newly built laundry that Tobagonians have to endure this level of mismanagement and where it patrimony is given away. If the laundry is completed and its operation starts, it can certainly save Tobago and Tobagonians a huge sum of money and employ many Tobagonians. It is time for Tobagonians to start the battle cry and ensure that the PNM-led THA gets down to the people’s business and get the laundry completed and have our hospital linens laundered in Tobago by Tobago employees.

The method of recruitment is also being done to benefit a number of the PNM cronies both in Trinidad and Tobago. With the decline in private business in Tobago and the THA holding the monopoly on employment in Tobago, the THA is using it to its advantage. A hospital normally employs a high percentage of human resource to ensure it functions effectively. However, the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) under the ambits of the THA, has been using the hospital hiring practice to promote nepotism. The TRHA employed Joanne Thomas a PNM Member of Parliament as its Consultant to guide it in its recruitment drive. For years this MP has been in Tobago carrying out the desires of the PNM. Her representation for her members in her Constituency has been lacking and there are number of persons in her Electoral District that do not even know her. She has not made a compelling presentation in Parliament to date and none of her contributions has significantly helped in shaping her constituency or the country as a whole. However, she has been busy in Tobago’s Hospital making background checks on Tobagonians, interrogating them to ensure they are associated with the PNM.

Many of the persons working as Environmental Workers and as Ward Maids are on month to month contracts. They are not certain if at the end of each month, they will be allowed to continue to work. This is like a jail sentence hanging over their heads and they have to walk on a fine line. They were promised that they would have been evaluated after six months. Many of them have not been and they are waiting on the next word from the Management. They are threatened for the smallest of mistakes and are constantly reminded that they are one month to month contracts and they can be easily sent home. The PNM seems to be interested in making the hospital a voter’s bank and not totally interested in delivering quality health care. It was obvious that the PNM-led THA and the THRA employment practice is a cesspool for the sins of a badly conceived, arbitrarily resourced, and indecently operated approach to keep the PNM in power in Tobago. However, the tides have been turning and it is clear that the PNM is not making any inroads in the politics of Trinidad and will soon not be able to make such in Tobago.

Tobagonians we cannot allow the PNM to destroy our intuitions, create a dependence state and use our resources to secure political power. Let us as Tobagonians stand up and fight against the evil of the PNM and shape Tobago into developed state status. The TOP wants to congratulate Mr Jack Warner on his victory in Chaguanas West.


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