Ex-SWRHA chair: Bigger issues at San Fernando hospital than gauze shortage

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The San Fernando General Hospital.

Even though the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) has denied that the San Fernando General Hospital has a gauze shortage, a former SWRHA chairman has said many people are complaining about having to buy basic medical supplies.

A statement from Dr Lackram Bodoe on Thursday said while the SWRHA had tried to reassure the public that there is no shortage of gauze and other supplies, many people say otherwise.

“Many citizens continue to complain of having to purchase basic items, including drugs and supplies for their loved ones who are patients at our public health facilities,” Bodoe said.

“These items are usually procured under a budget line item termed ‘Drugs and Supplies’ under the Ministry of Health’s ‘Goods and Services’ allocation. Since 2018 there has been a significant cut in this budgeted line item.”

On Tuesday, a statement from the SWRHA said there was no shortage, as adequate supplies were in stock and being distributed on request to clinical areas as needed.

The SWRHA made the statement in light of a question directed to Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh about service delivery at the hospital.

Bodoe said, “The explanation given to the Parliament was that the difference would have been supplemented via a loan to NIPDEC to procure these supplies.”

“The question is, therefore, whether this shortage of supplies is due to lack of funding, or whether there are shortcomings in the internal supply chain system within the Ministry of Health and the regional health authorities.”

The Fyzabad MP added that shortage of gauze and wound-dressing materials is an issue.

But there is the bigger problem of doctors having to cancel or defer surgery because of shortages of other items such as anaesthetic drugs and surgical supplies.

“This situation places an increasing burden on patients awaiting eye, joint and kidney- stone operations amongst other surgical procedures,” the opposition MP said.

“The Minister of Health needs to do more to address the long surgical waiting lists created during the pandemic when large numbers of non-urgent surgeries were postponed.”

He referred to a newspaper article on people’s view of the shortage claims, and bashed the Government.

“I trust the allocation for the health sector in the upcoming budget will be sufficient to treat with the shortage of basic supplies plaguing the public health facilities.

“Additionally, the Health Minister needs to implement innovative systems and solutions to deal with the excessive waiting times and long waiting lists that continue to frustrate citizens seeking healthcare in our public institutions.”

The SWRHA has said it continues to provide care with compassion and competence and will not compromise on patient safety.

It called on its “valued patients and clients” to use its customer service centre at 87-SWRHA (877-9742) to ask about any healthcare-related matters.