Several prominent Tobagonians- two politicians and two business owners, have strongly condemned the Tobago Regional Health Authority’s (TRHA) alleged wastage of over $100 million taxpayers funds.
A Guardian Media article on September 9, showed the purchase of a $34 million MRI bore too small to fit the average-sized Tobagonian and the supply and installation of a $70 million Catheterisation Laboratory for heart patients, which was never used.
Its lack of operation forced the island’s heart patients to travel to the Eric Williams Medical Science Complex in Trinidad for treatment.
The spend occurred during the People’s National Movement’s Orville London-led era. Under the Tobago House of Assembly’s (THA) Act #40 of 1996, the THA is responsible for the administration of health in Tobago.
Reacting to the news, former Chief Secretary Hochoy Charles alleged a “culture of squandermania developed” when he left the Assembly in January 2001.
“ When I ran the Assembly, our annual budget was just over $300 million, so we could not afford wastage,” he told Guardian Media.
He reminded that he took the Central Government to court over Tobago’s budgetary annual allocation. He won the matter arbitrated by the Dispute Resolution Commission (DRC). The DRC ruled the THA be allocated between 4.03 and 6.9 per cent of the national budget.
Chairman of the Tobago Division of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce Diane Hadad also reacted to the revelation. She described the situation as “disheartening.”
“ Having purchased the equipment and then not outfit or staffed the place, in a manner to make it useful, really speaks of how we manage or take charge of what is not personally ours,” she told Guardian Media.
Chairman of the Tobago Business Chamber Martin George struck a similar chord. He talked about “ a culture, lack of accountability, squandermania, and mismanagement.”
He repeated what has become his constant call for an investigation into all Regional Health Authorities.
“The government of Trinidad and Tobago have to relook at the entire regional health authority structure. It does not produce results. It is a failed model,” he told Guardian Media.
Deputy Political leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots Dr Faith B Yisrael said, “It is frustrating to continually have to respond to instances of mismanagement and wanton misuse of much-needed resources.”
She said the revelation had raised many questions.
“ Were the pieces of equipment actually purchased and installed at the CAT lab? Were the operating procedures, designed, written, and approved for the design at the CAT lab, and probably most importantly, and were members of staff specifically trained to function at the CAT lab.”
Earlier this week, Secretary of Health, Wellness, and Family Development Tracy Davidson- Celestine told Guardian Media the THA is “committed” to working towards a solution to get the Catheterisation Laboratory up and running in the “quickest time possible.”