Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 20th 2015 Contents A15
September 20, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
Construction of primary healthcare facilities
such as health centres in rural areas across
the country is high on the agenda for newly-
appointed Health Minister Terrence Deyals-
It is a move that deviates from the past
administration s thrust to build major hospitals
in areas such as Arima, Point Fortin, Couva and
Sitting in his fourth floor office at the Ministry
of Health s head office on Park Street, Port-of-
Spain, last week, Deyalsingh said the People s
National Movement (PNM) was committed to
continuing these major projects and would see
that the people of Point Fortin and surrounding
areas received a hospital.
When it comes to huge construction projects
in the health sector, though, Deyalsingh s focus
for the next five years is more on primary health
care in rural communities.
"We will be working with the Ministry of
Rural Development and using information from
the Central Statistical Office to guide us," Deyals-
Deyalsingh, who won the marginal seat of St
Joseph for the PNM, said his main focus was
on aligning the strategic vision of the ministry
with government policy.
"There are some areas of difference, for exam-
ple, the manifesto speaks clearly about an
emphasis on primary health. Traditionally,
administrations in the past have not focused
on primary health. We have focused on sec-
ondary and tertiary health care, so that is there
but we will now focus on primary."
Deyalsingh said there would be a decrease in
the intake at secondary and tertiary level.
He said it wasn t a quick fix, as any work
started now would take about 15 years to take
root, since there was a need in this country for
attitudinal and cultural changes.
What are the immediate needs in the health
sector, where nurses and doctors complain of
being overworked and patients complain of
Deyalsingh said he had not received a full
status report on the ministry yet. He, however,
has two immediate goals for the sector---creating
a strategy for the training and retention of med-
ical staff and carrying out the refurbishment
of health institutions, namely, the Port-of-Spain
General Hospital, the St Ann s Mental Hospital
and the San Fernando General Hospital.
Port-of-Spain General Hospital, constructed
in 1858, has been the source of complaint from
staff and patients for several years, with unsan-
itary conditions and dilapidated wards, leading
staff to protest on several occasions.
The St Ann s Hospital was being looked at
as potential real estate to be divested by the
former administration. Former health minister
Fuad Khan preferred a decentralisation of mental
"We will have to review the St Ann s facility
and all other facilities that need rebuilding or
refurbishing," Deyalsingh said. "The manifesto
pledges to refurbish existing hospitals and that
is on the cards to look at."
Staff issues to be addressed
Deyalsingh said the training and retention
of key healthcare personnel was critical. "As
you know, we may have the physical infra-
structure, but we don t have the human capacity
to man these institutions.
We will have to do a proper manpower audit
of all the key areas of staffing, medicine, nursing,
technicians, bio-technicians, radiographers, lab
"We have had an exodus of nurses. We are
not just looking at the retention of local staff,
but how do we keep foreign staff that we are
going to bring in.
"One of the things that affected the healthcare
system has been possibly a lack of communi-
cation and trust. We are looking to bring lead-
ership and management skills in the sector. We
have excellent professionals so once this is done
and stakeholders are happy, happy stakeholders
will redound to the benefit and care of patients."
Staffing of hospitals was a hot topic issue
during the general election earlier this month,
as many PNM members singled out the recent-
ly built Couva Children s Hospital as a source
of concern due to staff shortages. He said he
had not yet visited the hospital, but would do
so soon to assess the facility. He gave assur-
ances that the facility would be used to benefit
Deyalsingh knows he has a tough job. The
relationship between citizens and health min-
isters in the past has been delicate to put it
mildly, with members of the public quick to
call for the resignations of health ministers.
"Health care is a very emotional issue because
our loved ones and children are involved, but
the stories that come out into the newspaper
are not totally indicative of our healthcare sit-
"We have thousands of miracles that happen
in our hospitals every day," Deyalsingh said.
• See Page A16
Deyalsingh: Health centres in
rural areas high on the agenda
Minister of Health, Terrence Deyalsingh
speaking during an interview at his office on
Park Street, Port-of-Spain.
PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR
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