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Bodoe: Things Not Well At Arima General

MEMBER of Parliament for Fyzabad Dr Lackram Bodoe called on Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh to probe claims that, at the Arima General Hospital, contracts are being awarded to certain junior doctors ahead of doctors with longer service, ‘because they have friends in management and other higher places’.

‘Surely this cannot be the policy of the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) or any other RHA under this minister’s watch. Or is it that the most senior administrator at the RHA does not have to report to the minister?’ Bodoe asked as he contributed to the budget debate in the House of Representatives, at the Red House in Port of Spain, on Monday.

He said junior doctors who served during the Covid-19 pandemic were promised certain things, but this never materialised.

‘We are being told that the majority went from one-year contracts to locum contracts without any reasoning.’

He explained that with locum contracts, doctors were not entitled to vacation leave or sick days, were paid less, and did not get gratuity.

‘You are unable to get a loan, mortgage and so on. The promise of job security for dedicating their lives to the service of the country during the Covid-19 was never met,’ Bodoe claimed.

He said there were also claims of victimisation at Arima General.

‘If anyone speaks out, he or she will be transferred to another hospital or forced to resign,’ he said.

‘So I want to ask the minister to look at these claims. I am sure that under his watch this cannot be true. Whilst the minister is investigating these claims, I also want him to check into the allegations that senior staff are being paid for duties at the Arima Hospital whilst the majority of major surgical and other cases are being diverted to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex,’ Bodoe stated.

Responding to Deyalsingh’s contribution to the budget debate, Bodoe said the minister failed to say how he planned to deal with the shortage of doctors and nurses in the health sector.

He highlighted that key findings of a special report of the Auditor General, examining the performance of the health sector between 2016 and 2021 in treating with non-communicable disease mortality, was that the provision of human resources needed strengthening to meet the demands of the public healthcare system.

‘One of the worrying things about this is that the World Health Organisation’s recommendation in terms of staffing per 1,000 population is 4.45 doctors, nurses and midwives per 1,000 population. Madam Speaker, it is very worrying to know that at that point in time in 2021, and I’m sure it is no better now, that in our situation we have a ratio of one doctor, one nurse and midwife per 1,000 population,’ he said.

‘So it speaks to the tremendous challenge that we have in terms of providing staffing,’ Bodoe said.

‘It hits the nail on the head here, in terms of saying that of the approximately 17,682 positions directly linked to providing patient care across four RHAs, 37.6 per cent of the established positions were vacant at the end of 2021,’ he added.

He said Deyalsingh must look at ways young doctors can be meaningfully employed within the health sector going forward.

He said billions of taxpayers’ dollars were spent annually to train these doctors, however, there were more than 400 doctors, some graduating as far back as 2019, who were ‘not benefiting from this investment of taxpayers’ dollars’.

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