Janelle De Souza
The TT Medical Association has criticised the management changes of the medical staff treating covid19 patients at the Couva Hospital and Multi-Training Facility.
The organisation’s public relations officer Keegan Bhaggan said, “We do not support the NCRHA (North Central Regional Health Authority) management’s approach that leads only to the demoralisation of health care workers, especially those leading the frontline fight against covid19 at the Couva Hospital and Multi-Training Facility at this crucial time.”
The United National Congress (UNC) first raised the matter during a virtual news conference on Thursday. UNC Cumuto/Manzanilla MP Dr Rai Ragbir said the transfer of senior doctors put a strain on the parallel health care system. He also blamed the move for high occupancy rates and said it may have been a factor in the government declaring a state of emergency.
In an immediate response, the NCRHA issued a press release saying that the doctors were not being transferred but rotated to be given a rest and prevent burnout after working at the covid19 facility for over a year.
It said Dr Don Martin, the medical chief of staff at Couva, repeatedly made the request to NCRHA CEO, Davlin Thomas.
“The request, which was made approximately two weeks ago, was followed by a meeting with Director of Health (NCRHA), Dr Malachy Ojuro where Dr Martin again expressively reiterated that doctors should be rotated and reintegrated into the parallel system to prevent burnout which he felt was rampant amongst the doctors at the Couva Hospital, especially with the increasing intake for positive covid19 cases.
“Subsequent to this, another discussion was held with the CEO of the NCRHA, and the Executive Management team made the decision to facilitate the appeal to ensure that doctors at the facility were rotated to mitigate against the effects of fatigue on patient care.”
However, Martin later said he did not recommend senior staff be rotated at this critical time when so many people are sick and the hospitals were overwhelmed. Instead, the suggestion was made last year when the number of new cases, hospitalisations, and deaths were much lower.
In a release on Friday, Opposition Leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, called on Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh to launch a formal investigation into the matter.
She said the UNC learned that the rotation system was to be for junior doctors, not senior members; that the “rotated” doctors were those most qualified to treat with covid19 including an infectious disease specialist, specialist nephrologist, specialist pulmonologist and consultants; and that Martin and the others were being forced out against their will
“As Trinidad and Tobago battles its third wave of the deadly virus and our infection rate remains in the hundreds it makes no sense to remove the senior team of specialists from the main battleground in this covid fight.”
In a Facebook post on Saturday, the TT Registered Nurses Association said it was time to rotate Thomas out of the RHA. It called on Deyalsingh to appoint a qualified doctor or nurse in the position, or let Eastern RHA CEO Ronald Tsoi-a-Fatt act in the position until a suitable replacement was found.
“TTRNA is reminded that a similar attempt was made last year to move the Nursing Administrator and bring in a junior nurse to manage the Couva facility. It is a pattern that nurses and doctors have seen and reported to the association. When one disagrees on a clinical point with the ‘boss,’ who has no training in medicine or nursing, your eminent removal from the position is sure.”
The statement expressed also support for the medical professionals, saying the move demoralised all nursing and medical staff as they have been working as a close-knit team for over a year.