Monday, June 28, 2004

TT: Socialized health care really sucks

THE list of outstanding surgeries to be performed at the nation's main hospitals has reached an all-time high. This according to an official at the Ministry of Health.

At the end of last year, the figure was reported to be 5,187, but an official at the Ministry of Health has put the up-to-date figure at the end of May as "more than 10,000".

A patient who lives in Cedros and attends a clinic at San Fernando General Hospital told the Express that the amount of money he has already spent in travelling from Cedros to San Fernando is more than if he had paid for the surgery at a private institution.

"I am 70 years and I have an eye problem. For the last five years I have been attending the clinic and up to now I cannot get the surgery."

The patient was advised by the Express to contact the Ministry of Health to get his name on a new priority list.

The patient, who requested anonymity, is one of hundreds who on a daily basis attend out-patients clinics at the various health institutions in the country hoping to get and early date for surgery.

Many of them feel disappointed that they have to wait for years to get their surgery done, while others die before the surgery is performed.

Mindful of this problem, the Ministry of Health recently embarked on a plan to reduce the number of patients waiting for surgeries at the nation's hospitals, by allowing them to access treatment at private health institutions.

Health Minister John Rahael said, "Some 3,000 patients are earmarked for surgeries at private hospitals at the expense of the State."
Having surgery done in TT has become a matter of knowing the right people and having the right amount of money. No money, no surgery. Arbitrary delays, reschedulings, and the like are the norm. If you're seriously ill and need surgery, buy a coffin cuz you might wind up in it before you get the surgery.

One of the things that has occasioned the backlog is the proliferation of private hospitals and clinics at the expense of the hospitals. Many of these began with medical supplies and equipment taken from the hospitals -- that's the open secret in TT. Can't find an important piece of equipment? Go look in somebody's private hospital. It's there. Concomitant with this was the series of delays doctors caused, perhaps as a means of creating demand for their services at the private hospitals. Can't get surgery at the government hospital? Go to the private one and pay the same doctor several thousands; there, he'll use government equipment and medical supplies to operate for a small fee of several thousands.

The whole system calls for accountability, inventory tracking, and policing of physicians to ensure that the services for which the government pays them are provided to TT citizens.

Now, the Ministry of Health, instead of overhauling the system so that it works as it should, is playing into the hands of the same doctors who opened private hospitals at the ministry's expense. Way to go, Rahael!


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