More questions than answers at ERHA

 Can a two-day retreat fix what are apparently deep-seated problems at the Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA)?

 Health Minister Fuad Khan seems to think so. The Minister had to take quick action this week when the ERHA’s chief executive officer, Ameena Ali, was summarily dismissed by the Authority’s board. Since Ms Ali was still on six months probation in her post, the board members believed they could legally fire the CEO without providing either reason or cause. Even if they were on solid legal ground, however, this is hardly the best practice.

Ms Ali’s dismissal ostensibly came about because 14 ERHA managers sent a letter to the board threatening to resign unless she was removed forthwith. Ms Ali, in her turn, claimed she had been carrying out various audits on the Authority and had “mashed plenty corns”. After meeting with all the parties, however, Minister Khan described the issue as “a relationship problem” and said that he had indicated to the CEO that “the manner she is speaking to the staff will have to be tempered”. He also announced that there would be a weekend retreat for all the key players.

However, if the issue is rooted in the personality of the CEO, then questions arise as to why she got this management job to start with. On the other hand, if the issue is the audits, does the ministry have a plan to treat with the findings? Minister Khan’s comments clearly imply that he leans toward the former explanation. If this is the case, then Ms Ali has to revamp her entire managerial philosophy and also mend fences with the 14 senior officials she has already disaffected to the extent where they were all prepared to walk off their jobs.

If, however, Ms Ali’s audits are the real cause behind this concerted effort to remove her, that suggests there are serious problems in the ERHA. Given the scams which have been unearthed in other RHAs and in the health sector generally, this is entirely within the bounds of probability. If this is indeed the case, at least 14 senior ERHA officials were so worried about what the CEO might uncover that they were willing to leave their jobs rather than defend themselves under the Authority’s ambit. 

Whichever scenario turns out to be true, the ERHA board clearly also has a problem with Ms Ali, whether with her personality or her audits. This means Ms Ali must be fired, or allowed to continue her investigations, or become a cipher CEO with no power to manage her staff. But, whatever happens, if the Authority’s problems aren’t resolved effectively, it will be the patients who will suffer the consequences.

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