Al-Rawi: Lack of opposition support hurts health sector

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of Rural Development and Local Government Faris Al-Rawi – Angelo Marcelle

Rural Development and Local Government Minister, Faris Al-Rawi, has blamed a lack of opposition support for handicapping the government’s ability to effect improvements in the public health-care system.

Al-Rawi’s comment came on Friday as debate continued in the parliament on a private motion brought by opposition MP, Dr. Rishad Seecharan, in January. The motion seeks to hold the government accountable for failing to provide safe, reliable, and compassionate health-care services.

However, in his contribution, Al-Rawi said the government was doing a good job of managing the sector, especially considering the service was being provided for free.

He cited the millions of diagnostic tests done at the North Central Regional Health Authority and the hundreds of thousands of patients treated annually.

He also cited the comprehensive cancer treatment freely available to the public. He added that the government also undertook significant work to make the system more efficient.

“I recall the horror I felt and the Cabinet felt when we were told purchasing on the Ven List (a list of essential medication to be procured), there were duplicates and triplicates of drugs. We had to eliminate approximately $150 million of expired drugs every year. Because the list was not refined,” he said.

The list, he said, was then adjusted by Health Minister, Terrence Deyalsingh, upon taking office and had significantly reduced loss through drugs going bad down to just hundreds of dollars. With the motion intended to get the government to improve healthcare services, Al-Rawi blamed the opposition for not supporting the tools that could facilitate such a move.

“This motion asks for more but from where? The government says let’s get more. Let us allow people, via a revenue authority, to improve the revenue collection in this country so that we can have millions of more procedures in diagnostics.

“They (the opposition) say no. “Let us allow for the public service to be reformed through digitisation. They say no. Let us feed local government with property taxes and take it away from central government so that the health system can have more money. They say no.”

“The only way a government runs itself is via that ugly word, tax.”