Dr. Lackram Bodoe. Photo by – Vidya Thurab
FYZABAD MP Dr Lackram Bodoe said the government has failed to deliver on its health sector mandate to protect, promote and improve the health status of citizens.
He made the statement during debate on a motion brought by him in Parliament on Friday during private members’ day.
Bodoe said as a medical practitioner with decades of experience, and as former SWRHA chairman, he knows there are many shortcomings in the system. He said this was evidenced by the many complaints received by MPs, broadcast on social media, and seen on the news, especially about drug shortages and long waiting times.
He noted several news articles about incidents which had occurred at hospitals which had resulted in discomfort and tragedy for citizens, and said there were lessons to be learned about aspects of the health care system, such as surgical safety procedures, customer service, review of the ambulance service, training, and infrastructure.
Bodoe said during the People’s Partnership’s term in office, it had taken a PPG approach to the health care sector.
“PPG – people, plan, governance, process, oversight, and accountability. Every effort was made to keep young doctors gainfully employed, especially as we have a surplus. The government’s approach is to give them short term contracts and a lot of them are seeking employment elsewhere. The same with nurses, we trained them but government is letting them fly the coop. They discontinued the extended hours at health centres, and didn’t finish or make use of facilities which were still being constructed when we left office.”
Bodoe criticised the government for not implementing the Welch report which was commissioned in November 2015. He said government said it would be financially costly to implement the recommendations made.
In his response, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said when the report was laid, the Opposition Leader was asked to sit on a joint select committee (JSC) of Parliament to analyse the report.
“The response was NO! History will not absolve (the member for) Siparia from refusing to go to the JSC. The powers of a JSC are wide, and stakeholders from all sectors could have been interviewed.”
He criticised Bodoe for making “political hay” out of the tragedies which had occurred in the health system. He noted several issues which had taken place while Bodoe was SWRHA chairman, including overcrowding at accident and emergency departments, a lack of maternity care, and overpayment of staff.
He said the Opposition would not choose to highlight the achievements of the government.
“In 2014 there were 5,157 suspected cases of dengue, now there were 28, and there were no dengue related deaths in the last five years. At the San Fernando General Hospital 5,359 surgeries were performed between July and December 2022. In addition, there were 117 CVC line insertions, 634 obstetric cases, 792 ophthalmology cases.”
Deyalsingh said people who received good service from the health care system did not write letters of complaint to the newspapers, but are grateful for the service.
“The taxpayer spends $34 million a year to two private providers to radiate people at a cost of $57,000 per patient. In the public sector under NWRHA, our government-owned Linear Accelerator (LINAC), which cost $75 million, has seen 1,057 patients in two and a half years.
“Does the public know that it costs the taxpayers $136,800 per year to dialyse one patient? We dialyse 1,090 patients. Ask the 67 people who receive angioplasty services at $62,000 a pop, that cost this country $4.1 million dollars. Isn’t that a health care system that is delivering something?”
Deyalsingh again criticised the Opposition for attacking the public servants who led the pandemic response. He said none of the professional organisations stood up for their colleagues against this attack, and called it a failure of the professional class.
He said several initiatives had been put in place to reduce the incidence of non-communicable diseases, including physical equipment, school programmes, and movement initiatives for the general population.
Deyalsingh said there were drug shortages worldwide but he promised to try his best to not have chronic long-term shortages.
He said the accident and emergency departments used the Canadian CETAS triage system which prioritised people on worst come, first served system, so that some patients were prioritised over others based on their proximity to death.