UNC responds to Deyalsingh on Couva NICU

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Senator Jearlean John – SUREASH CHOLAI

Describing facts as “stubborn things,” former Urban Development Corporation (Udecott) Chairman Jearlean John said the Couva hospital was complete with a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) when it was opened in August 2015.

She made the statement in a media conference hosted by the opposition United National Congress (UNC) on Wednesday after Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh maintained the Couva hospital did not have a NICU and was not meant to be a children’s hospital.

Deyalsingh dismissed a 2015 video with prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar touring the hospital; as a “promotional video” and said it was “aspirational as to what Couva should look like.”

Deyalsingh said a brief from Udecott dated October 6, 2014 “spoke nothing about a NICU.”

The Ministry of Health later posted a screenshot of the video to its Facebook page with the word “FAKE NEWS” written in red across the picture.

It said, “The public is advised that a video currently circulating on social media purporting to be the NICU of the then Couva Children’s Hospital, is Fake.”

In a subsequent media release the ministry said there was no NICU at the facility and it was instead set up with a four-bed Special Baby Care Unit (SBCU) with incubators which is used for less urgent cases.

It added, “Of the 230 beds in the facility, 150 beds were allocated to adults and 80 beds for use by children. Therefore, approximately 34 per cent of the beds were for children while the remainder of the beds were for adults. This underscores the fact that the facility was not specifically designed for children only.”

However, John accused Deyalsingh of lying.

“I assure you the videotape is a true representation of the hospital when it was commissioned on August 14, 2015.”

Dr Lackram Bodoe, who was chairman of the South West Regional Health Authority when the hospital was completed, also disputed Deyalsingh’s claims.

He said Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee also confirmed the hospital was set up for a NICU after it undertook a site visit in 2016.

“In the report, there’s a stat diagram (which) essentially showed the facilities that were available at the Couva hospital. This report is a public document and it says clearly here, ‘Obstetrics, nursery and paediatric intensive care unit (with ) 13 rooms and 25 beds plus NICU (with) four beds.’”

Addressing Deyalsingh’s claims that the hospital was never really intended to be a children’s hospital, John said he was “splitting hairs” over a crucial issue that could benefit the people of TT.

“That is 80 more beds for children than we have now. That is 80 sick children who will not have to sleep in corridors. That’s 150 beds for adults (which) we don’t have now and that you have kept maliciously out of the health-care system.”