Ratiram claims: Port of Spain General Hospital staff living in fear

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Couva North MP Ravi Ratiram.

COUVA North MP Ravi Ratiram has claimed staff at the Port of Spain General Hospital (PoSGH) are fearful for their lives after a shooting incident there on June 2 which left four people dead.

He made this allegation on June 3 before the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Representatives approved a supplementation of $495, 286, 000 to the Health Ministry in the 2023/2024 budget .

Before the supplementation was approved, Ratiram said $40 million was being allocated within the supplementation to the North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA), under which the PoSGH falls.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh identified areas of expenditure this funding would address.

Ratiram asked whether the $40 million allocation to NWRHA was partly due to any decision to increase security at NWRHA after the budget was presented last October.

He also asked whether security or any other services were under-budgeted at the NWRHA.

Deyalsingh said Ratiram was focusing on security more than other areas of expenditure for the NWRHA.

“I did indicate all the categories that were going to be covered. Let me repeat. It includes medical supplies, $13.5 million; utilities, $3.8 million. Yes, security, $10.2 million. Food supplies, $10.5 million.

“It’s a wide variety of expenditure heads.”

Ratiram claimed Deyalsingh had not addressed his concerns.

“I want to tell you, minister, that the doctors and the health workers are right now in fear, in that hospital and security services is something that is extremely important to all the workers and even the citizens who have to use that facility, taking into consideration what transpired on Sunday night.”

Ratiram called for additional expenditure to be incurred to boost security at public hospitals if necessary.

He urged Deyalsingh to “drive the necessary initiative to ensure that our citizens and our health workers are safe at the PoSGH .”

Committee chairman Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George disallowed a question from Caroni East MP Dr Rishad Seecheran as to whether the money allocated for security services for the NWRHA was to treat with any possible future contingency.

Deyalsingh did not make any comment on the June 2 incident during the meeting.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert said the Health Ministry requires significant sums annually.

He estimated that figure to be approximately $5 billion per year.

“It is proving quite difficult to finance the purchase of free pharmaceuticals and all the other free services that are available in the health sector.”

Imbert recalled that when he was health minister 20 years ago, the ministry received a budgetary allocation of $1 billion.

“We as a country spend huge amounts on health care, and it is something we need to look at to make sure that we are getting value for money.”

Earlier, Deyalsingh spoke about expenditure related to the Chronic Disease Assistance Programme (CDAP).

“So for example, HPV vaccines, $1.4 million. Pharmaceuticals $555.9 million.”

The breakdown for the latter included:

$132.7 million for oncology drugs
$20.6 million for HIV drugs
$40.5 million for antibiotics and anti-infectives
$58.7 million for psychiatry
$60.3 million for NCDs (non-communicable diseases)
$84.8 million for non-pharmaceuticals ($28.4 million for medical devices, $8.3 million for diagnostics, $1.2 million for orthopaedic products $460,000 for PPE, $200,000 for HIV test kits).