Deyalsingh tells UNC: Couva Hospital had no NICU

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh speaks at the Health Ministry’s press conference at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex on April 22. – Photo by Venessa Mohammed

HEALTH Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has responded to the Opposition’s statements about the use of the Couva Hospital and Multi-Training Facility in light of the deaths of seven babies at the Port of Spain General Hospital (PoSGH).

The babies died at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) between April 4 and 9.

Protests at the Couva facility stopped 20 cataract operations from being done on April 20, Deyalsingh said.

“They endangered the lives of staff and those patients who were carded to have cataract surgeries. We did not know if they were going to keep on the protests on Sunday (April 21), so we had to postpone it,” he said.

United National Congress (UNC) supporters protested outside the Couva facility on April 20 to demand that the government repurpose it as a dedicated children’s hospital.

In a press conference at the Ministry of Health, Queen’s Park East, Port of Spain, on April 22, Deyalsingh said the protest had stopped the surgery.

UNC supporters during a protest outside the Couva Hospital and Multi-Training Facility on April 20. – Photo courtesy UNC

Addressing statements by former MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar about the Couva Hospital, Deyalsingh said: “They forget we have an existing Wendy Fitzwilliam Children’s Hospital, which was never at full capacity.”

The Wendy Fitzwilliam hospital is at Riverside Avenue, San Juan.

He added that there was also the Mt Hope’s Women’s Hospital and, if there was a difficult delivery, a premature baby would go to the NICU there.

Deyalsingh detailed what was being done at the Couva hospital, saying it was constantly being said the Government was closing the hospital for spite.

He said the North Central Regional Health Authority’s (NCRHA) Cardiac Rehabilitation Centre was started there from November 1 last year and first-visit consultations, follow-up consultations, telemed consultations and walk-ins were done.

The hospital also had a total of 291 patients referred to Couva Hospital for cataract surgeries and 91 people had already had theirs done.

From January 2023-March 2024, 84 ultrasounds were done at Couva, as well as 1,137 mammograms.

There were 1,801 CT-scans done, as well as 883 MRIs and 830 X-rays.

Deyalsingh said the hospital was also used at the height of the covid19 pandemic and thousands of patients had used its services for that from 2023 to now.

“So for the Opposition to insist that Couva is closed is just an outright untruth,” he added.

He said the Wendy Fitzwilliam Children’s Hospital had always been functional.

Detailing the available paediatric units throughout the country, Deyalsingh said there was also one at the San Fernando General Hospital.

“So it is not to say children are not getting care in our hospitals.

“The Sangre Grande Hospital has a full paediatric unit and in Tobago there is a full paediatric unit.

“And when we open the new (PoSGH) central block there will be a full paediatric unit.”

He said the PoSGH had never had a full paediatric unit but when the design brief was being done for the new central block the Government insisted it must have a paediatric unit.

He said the Opposition was saying if the Couva Hospital were open and its NICU functional the deaths might not have happened, but a Urban Development Corporation (Udecott) brief said there was no NICU. There was instead a four-bed, special-care baby unit for less urgent cases.