SWRHA approves whistleblower policy

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

SWRHA CEO Dr Brian Armour addresses a public meeting at San Fernando City Hall earlier this year. – File photo by Angelo Marcelle

THE South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) board recently approved a whistleblower policy that can help patients and staff report unscrupulous activity.

The revelation came from the SWRHA’s CEO Dr Brian Armour during the authority’s public board meeting on June 27 at City Hall Auditorium, San Fernando, in response to a question from a member of the public.

The concern arose from sentiments expressed at a joint select committee (JSC)meeting on June 26 about patients being lured away from public hospitals, where they can receive certain treatments for free, and into the private sector, where they must pay for them.

“You can report to the quality departments as it is, and the board would have also approved a whistleblower policy (on) which we are working with the audit department, as advised by the board, to have whistleblower software in order to allow for persons to make complaints.”

He said the board and executives also devised a conflict-of-interest policy in 2023 and are working with the Ministry of Health on a “dual practice discussion paper” which could also help address the issue.

While noting there needs to be a national discussion on the issue, he admitted legislation and policy can only go so far in curbing the practice.

“You cannot legislate behaviour or a code of ethics. Doctors are also bound by a code of ethics and other professions as well, and ethics, as far as I learnt it, is only doing the right thing. If nobody is watching, you still do the right thing. Therefore this is something that also has to be on the national discourse about professional code of ethics.

“During the meeting of the JSC on Social Services and Public Administration, its head, Senator Paul Richards, called for the occurrence to be investigated, saying he believed the matter was not being pursued as vigorously as it should be.

The Ministry of Health’s permanent secretary Asif Ali promised to look at an investigation, but said it had very few written complaints to investigate. Armour then noted that patients were afraid of being victimised, which was why they did not speak up.

“We know it happens, but persons have to come forward.”