Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 24th 2016 Contents news
tobagotoday.co.tt AUGUST 24-30, 2016
Police are yet to visit the newly-ren-
ovated premises of the Tobago Health
Promotion Clinic s (THPC) old phar-
macy building at the old Scarborough
Hospital, Fort King George, to investi-
gate the alleged theft of anti-retroviral
drugs there last month.
The drugs were allegedly stolen between
July 12-18 and Acting Tobago Regional health
Authority Chief Executive Officer Dr
Nathaniel Duke ordered a probe and called
in the police.
Responding to the issue as exclusively
reported by Tobago Today, he said, "A poten-
tial crime has been committed and this is
in the hands of the police."
The officers were to have shown up on
August 12 to begin their probe, as staff were
asked to prepare statements on the alleged
theft, but never showed, according to the
clinic s Medical Director Dr Raymond Noel.
"To date, no officers have been to the
clinic," Noel told Tobago Today.
However, Noel is refuting claims that the
alleged missing drugs were worth hundreds
of thousands of dollars as stated by TRHA
"Those claims are very inaccurate, an
exaggeration and not true. More than 80
per cent of the patients here are on first-
line therapy and at the last count, in 2010,
first-line HIV medication cost the state
$5,000 annually per patient. Truvada is half
of the first-line treatment, so the missing
medications should value no
more than $11,000 at 2010
costs," Noel said. "The cost is
lower now because we are sig-
natories to PEPFAR (US Pres-
ident s Emergency Plan for
On the issue of securing the
antiretroviral drugs at the clin-
ic, the medical director pointed
out that since the clinic began
16 years ago, the drugs were
being secured in the car of one
of the head nurse.
"Nothing ever went miss-
ing," she said.
He noted that refurbishment
works continue at the clinic and that he, as
medical director, still has no access to the
keys to secure the building. This situation,
he said, may have led to the current state
He said he feels strongly that people with-
in the clinic s community would not have
interfered with the drugs. To prove his point,
he noted what he termed "community com-
fort," which meant the community supported
and protected the clinic.
"We could have gone to our offices at any
time at Singh s building to give medications
to our patients without fear or hassle any-
time night or day," he said when explaining
what "community comfort" meant.
He doubted too that staff at the clinic
would have been responsible for the alleged
theft, since they spend "collectively... about
ten per cent of their salaries
making sure patients are well
taken care of."
"Patients may want a
meal or the cost of trans-
portation to get to and from
the clinic and staff assists
by pushing their hands in
their pockets. I felt it could
not be staff as they always
go above the call of duty,
and this has never happened
in the 16-year history of the
clinic," Noel told Tobago
The staff also continues
to give yeoman service
although they are yet to receive contracts
from the TRHA since the unit was removed
from the Office of the Chief Secretary and
transferred to the TRHA, he said.
"It s a situation which the medical director
refused to address. I will make no comments
on that matter," he told Tobago Today.
He also did not want to discuss allegations
by patients that the accusation of thefts at
the clinic were a deliberate attempt to under-
mine the institution.
"I cannot answer to that. What I can say
is that it seems that the clinic has always
been prosecuted for what it has achieved,
not what it hasn t done," he said when asked
about the allegations.
Focus on patient care
The medical director is also resolute in
his belief that his patients come first.
Asked if things were back to normal after
the allegations of theft surfaced and patients
were required to go the hospital to have
their prescriptions filled, instead of the more
secure arrangement of doing o at the clinic,
he said: "Once there is a will there is a way
to get things done and we have always found
patient-centered ways to continue servicing
our patients without them having to go to
the hospital and risking their identities being
Asked if HIV/AIDS patients fearful of their
confidentiality may have suffered during
the debacle, he reminded Tobago Today of
the crisis patients said they were facing after
being forced to go to the hospital to be reg-
istered at the pharmacy so that their pre-
scriptions could be filled.
"Remember, we are doing what we should
by keeping the identities of our patients
private and in order to do that we treat
patients with all types of illnesses. It s not
like you are going to a specific area in a
building where only people who are infected
will be treated. It is known throughout the
world that no matter who you sit next to,
once there is quality care you will go there
Questioned further as to if he will amend
the operations of the clinic because of the
existing situation, he replied: "No, the right
way is the only way. Patients have rights.
They must be respected and we will protect
their privacy and allow them to remain with
their dignity intact."
Dr Nathaniel Duke
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