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Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh speaks during a media conference on the government’s effort in combating the Convid-19 virus at Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s yesterday.

SHALIZA HASSANALI

Cabinet has agreed to allocate an additional $157 million to four of the country’s five Regional Health Authorities (RHAs) as they ramp up the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) will get the lion’s share of the extra funding – $129.9 million – in what will be the first injection of funds the RHAs will receive for the drive.

The announcement was made by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley during yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s. The PM said the money will be distributed to the four RHAs in Trinidad.

Giving a breakdown of how the funds will be distributed, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the $157m will be spent in four areas – consumables, human resources, infrastructure and equipment. He said consumables would entail acquiring gloves, surgical caps and syringes; human resources would require ramping up of house officers, consultants and enrolled nursing assistants; infrastructure would be building isolation rooms and providing quarantine areas for health care workers; while they would need to purchase ventilators, cardiac monitors and vital sign monitors.

Deyalsingh said the Eastern Regional Health Authority will receive $6.2 million “which would include the expenditure that they are incurring at (Camp) Balandra.” Last week, the ministry placed 68 patients in quarantine at Camp Balandra after they arrived home from an ill-fated Caribbean cruise where passengers tested positive for the virus.

“Cause that is not a free service. That particular facility is costing us about $85,000 a month, where we had put in those 68 citizens who came in from the cruise.”

The North-West RHA will get $16.6m and the South West Regional Health Authority $4.5 million.

Having given instructions to the Urban Development Corporation of T&T to re-programme the Arima General Hospital, which is now ready, Deyalsingh said they are doing the same thing with the Point Fortin Hospital.

“So in case we have to use the Point Fortin Hospital for COVID-19, that will be up and running just as a primary care facility in the not too distant future.”

Deyalsingh said the NRCHA will receive the lion’s share since it is the focal point for the COVID-19 response. The NRCHA is in charge of the Caura Health Facility, which has 100-plus beds and the Couva Hospital, where all positive patients have been placed. The money will be allocated to the RHAs over the next three to six months.

“This is going to be a marathon. This is going to cover the first few miles of that marathon,” Deyalsingh said.

This initial injection is not the final sum, Deyalsingh pointed out.

“However, things like infrastructure and equipment will be a one time cost. The variable costs that would change with time will be consumables because the longer this goes on the more consumables you will use.”

He said Cabinet has agreed that if and when circumstances dictate, additional funding will be provided.