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Stop the buck now

It is time for some straight answers on the status of the Tobago Regional Hospital. That Tobagonians should have to put up with the receding horizon deadline for the opening of this hospital is completely unacceptable.

We hold all parties responsible in this matter: The Ministry of Health as well as the Tobago House of Assembly which by law has the devolved responsibility for the administration of public health care in Tobago.

We find particularly curious the position of Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan who seemed surprised to learn that the hospital was not yet functional when contacted for comment by this newspaper. Declaring the situation to be "ridiculous'', Minister Khan went on to say that "someone was blocking the project'' despite the good intentions of Tobago's Secretary for Health and that since he was in Tobago, he might make a "spot check'' at the facility.

We are dumbfounded that the Minister of Health is not on top of a situation that is of such critical importance to the quality of life of the people of Tobago. By his own admission, Minister Khan last discussed the Tobago Regional Hospital with the Secretary of Health in August. At that time he was told that its services would be fully available to the public by September.

We find it inexcusable that two months after he expected the hospital to be fully functional, the minister has not been in touch to demand an explanation for why it has once again failed to meet a deadline for opening.

Instead of spewing conspiracy theories about the Health Secretary "being blocked'' by persons he did not identify, the minister needs to get on top of this problem in order to offer specific details surrounding the chronic disaster that this vital institution has become.

Equally, in announcing plans to disclose the schedule for the opening of additional phases of the hospital this week, the THA seems equally insensitive to its responsibility and accountability in the matter.

This is a hospital that has been 14 years in the making and which has already cost taxpayers $375 million. Surely, this is enough to indicate that we have an emergency on our hands that needs the closest possible management and ongoing communication with the public.

We hope this hospital, so crucial to the quality of health care on the sister isle, will not get dragged into the already heated campaign for the THA elections of January.

Already, there is a reprehensible tendency to manage the Tobago portfolio from the campaign platform. This hospital has been there and back many times without Tobagonians reaping the benefit of the investment beyond primary out-patient care.

We urge the Ministry of Health and the THA to put aside the politicking and come up with a clear plan for full delivery within the earliest possible time. Confrontation on this issue will help no one.

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