Government is committing itself to paying the full airfare of Tobagonians who need to travel to Trinidad for specific medical treatment.
Minister for Tobago Affairs Delmon Baker made the announcement at yesterday's post- Cabinet media conference at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair. He said the "outstanding matter" of medical transfers of patients from Tobago to Trinidad was considered by the Cabinet. It sometimes takes 90 days for patients to be seen at the clinics in Tobago. He said patients requiring ENT (ear, nose, throat), orthopaedic and other specialist attention sometimes have to come to Trinidad for urgent attention or even for their regular clinic appointments.
He said the Ministry of Tobago Development had a rebate vote which allowed such patients to come to the ministry and seek a refund of 75 per cent of their airfare, after they had travelled to Trinidad for medical attention.
He said Cabinet decided yesterday on the provision of the full advance airfare for such patients as well as the full advance airfare of one accompanying adult. Government through the Ministry of Tobago Development would now pay 100 per cent of both airfares.
He said it means that Tobagonians can access medical services much faster and that those who could not afford to travel in the first instance, and had to wait in Tobago (for months) to be seen, can travel almost "hopefully" within a week of applying for the facility.
"This is good news for the health care system as a whole in Tobago, it is good news for the patients in Tobago. Because of this decision we are able to have the team (permanent secretary and other members of the financial assistance committee at the Ministry) look the doctor's report, examine whether the patient applied to any other agency, before "quickly" making the decision that the patient needs the urgent medical care and pay for the ticket so the patient can come to Trinidad," he said.
The announcement comes one day after reports that Rahil Hosein, of Tobago, died seven days after being hospitalised waiting for brain surgery.
Government's decision could be an election sweetener, as it prepares for the Tobago House of Assembly election.