DIEGO MARTIN Central MP Dr Amery Browne has said he was advised that earlier this year United National Congress (UNC) constituency members were used as patient escorts at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) at Mt Hope.
He made the claim last Friday during his contribution to debate in the Lower House on the National Budget 2012/2013 at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.
"I am advised that in May of this year the patient escorts at the (EWMSC) took industrial action and guess what was done Mr Speaker? UNC constituencies were called and told to send people to (EWMSC), and they were given white coats to put on," he said.
He continued: "They just gave them white coats to fool the population. Your cousin and your daughter and your grandchild being pushed on a trolley by strangers, persons who were not properly vetted, sharing an elevator with someone who just has on a white coat."
He said while former "bizarre" health minister Therese Baptiste-Cornelis was doing a poor job current Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan was "even worse".
He listed a litany of problems: no toilet paper at a Port of Spain clinic; women having to use the Port of Spain General Hospital toilets while construction workers repaired them; a "collapsed" procurement system and basic items had "evaporated"; and Pap smears and other services were not being offered.
"Primary healthcare appears to be slipping into ruin," he said.
He noted that with this situation he was not surprised by the Express front page story last Friday with Unicef reporting that infant and child mortality rates in the country were on the rise.
"It is not a new phenomenon, (but) it is a rising phenomenon, an increasing phenomenon. We need to treat it as an emergency," he said.
On the health sector, which he said featured in Finance Minister Larry Howai's budget presentation for "two minutes", Browne commented that the UNC was presiding over its "decimation".
He said while Howai repeated the "tiresome statement" that new hospitals would be built he questioned who would staff them, noting that recruitment practices were "abysmal" and the existing hospitals were already understaffed and "stretched to the limit".
On the topic of nutrition he called for an investigation into reports that at some school cafeterias, including in the Mucurapo area, provisions were being made for fast food companies Royal Castle, KFC and Mario's Pizza to provide meals.
"Mr Speaker that is in direct contradiction of some of the representations the Minister of Health has made right here in this honourable House," he said.