SWRHA rubbishes Kamla’s corrupt contracts claim

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

SWRHA CEO Brian Armour with other officials during a press conference at the San Fernando Teaching Hospital on April 27. – Rishard Khan

THE South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) is rubbishing insinuations by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar of corrupt million-dollar contracts issued by the authority within recent months.

Persad-Bissessar made several claims about inadequacies at the San Fernando General Hospital during a parliamentary debate on a private motion to mandate the government to improve healthcare delivery on April 26, at the Red House in Port of Spain. She called for a forensic audit and investigation.

For one, she said the hospital intentionally failed to fix its incinerator for $250,000 and chose to outsource to Guide’s Funeral Home ($40,000 weekly), Sanitec Ltd ($834,750 monthly) and Pirhana International ($714,875 monthly). However, in a press conference at the San Fernando Teaching Hospital on April 27, SWRHA’s chief executive officer Dr Brian Amour said the opposition leader was off the mark. He said there are two incinerators at the hospital which are both set for decommissioning and removal. He said one, which was procured in 2012 for $8,900,946 has been plagued with issues since 2016. These include broken loading mechanisms, a faulty hydraulic pump and even being locked out of the interface preventing a restart.

Since then, he said the authority has spent over $1.7 million to repair it with the most recent attempt being in March 2023. Despite this, it is still inoperable. He said that even if it is repaired, there is no guarantee it will be reliable. Compounding this issue, he said are new emission standards the hospital must meet now that the Waterfront U Park was opened in August 2023 near the facility. This is why, he said, the other incinerator cannot be used.

Although the hospital has an autoclave that sterilises non-sharp biomedical waste (which accounts for three-quarters of the hospital’s daily waste output), it needs an electricity supply. He said while the SWRHA works with the T&TEC on this, a generator has been leased since August 2023 for $51,000 a month. He said the authority is working to purchase the generator for $1,031,625 by June.

Amour said there were growing pains with getting the autoclave up and running which resulted in a backlog of waste. In response, he said Piranha International Ltd was hired on an emergency basis to remove 7.038 tonnes of sharps, body parts and non-sharps waste over two weeks for $261,200.

Between September and November, he said Sanitec Ltd was contracted to remove 44.428 tonnes of waste for $1,554,999.95. Now that the autoclave is running smoothly to dispose of the bulk of waste, he said Guide’s Funeral Home has been contracted at $45,750 monthly to dispose of body parts totalling $228,750 from December 2023 to April 2024.

During the parliamentary debate, the opposition leader also criticised the authority for failing to maintain its generators at the new wing. She said since November, the authority has been renting one for $75,000 a week totalling $1.35 million to date.

Amour admitted that both the primary and secondary generators were not functioning. He said the authority is renting one on a monthly schedule and has spent $1,188,000 since November as work continues to repair the secondary generator.

“This section of the hospital houses our theatre, our emergency department and intensive care unit services where you have intubated and ventilated patients and/or patients under anaesthetic doing surgery. I do not think there can be a cost ascribed to saving and preserving life in a responsible manner. So these critical areas, simply put, cannot be left without a backup electrical supply,” he said.

While repairs continue on the secondary generator, Amour said a new generator has been procured and will be used as the hospital’s new generator.

“There is already an offer of an award of contract for this service and it is expected in a few months. Once this primary new generator is installed and commissioned and until this secondary generator is repaired, the current rental generator arrangement will then cease.”

He said the opposition leader was right in her assertion that the boilers were not operational. However, he said this is because they are outdated.