Flashback: Fired CEO of the the Eastern Regional Health Authority Ameena Ali, right, during a tour in October of the Port of Spain General Hospital, when she held the position as general manager of operations at the North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA). At left is Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan. –Photo: MICHEAL BRUCE

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HEALTH CEO FIRED

Board sacks ERHA head but Khan threatens to axe directors instead

By Joel Julien joel.julien@trinidadexpress.com

THE ENTIRE board of directors of the Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA) is facing the possibility of being axed, following a decision to dismiss recently appointed chief executive officer Ameena Ali without following due process, Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan has said.

Khan has called for a meeting with the ERHA board today to discuss the situation.

On November 1, Ali was named the CEO of the ERHA after holding the post of general manager of Operations at the North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA).

Over the past week, the ERHA’s board of directors received formal letters of complaint from 14 managers about Ali, chairman Dr Stephen Bhagan told the Express yesterday.

The managers all threatened to walk if Ali remained in charge, Bhagan said.

Bhagan said the ERHA’s board in an attempt to quell the mass exodus saw dismissing Ali as the best option.

Bhagan said the ERHA had only in October won the Ministry of Health’s most coveted Health Sector Provider Agency Award and it would be devastating for the authority to lose some of the key players involved in that success.

As such the ERHA’s board of directors issued a dismissal letter to Ali yesterday.

The decision to dismiss Ali was against the official directive of a minister, Khan said.

The entire ERHA board is now facing the possibility of being dismissed as a result of the move, Khan said.

Khan said he was made aware of the claims against Ali in a letter from the ministry’s permanent secretary.

Khan said he arranged a meeting between the ERHA’s board and Ali scheduled for today to address the situation.

The ERHA’s board however jumped the gun.

“I am really upset,” Khan told the Express yesterday.

“I asked the board on Friday, the chairman of the board, to discuss with me (today) all the matters concerning that problem so I directed him that there should be no action taken, not at a board level or anything until he, I, the CEO and the board discuss it in the presence of the permanent secretary, the deputy permanent secretary and the chief medical officer,” Khan said.

“The entire Eastern Regional Health Authority’s board has gone against my directive, chairman included,” he said.

Bhagan is Khan’s brother-in-law.

“If they have gone against a ministerial directive that is grounds for revoking the (appointment of the) whole board. I gave a directive to do nothing and they have gone against the directive of a minister,” Khan said.

Khan said he wanted to ensure proper procedure and protocols were observed to protect the State from any possible lawsuit and ensure everyone had a chance to be heard.

The ERHA’s board however fired Ali because they received a legal opinion telling them that she could be dismissed because she was “still on probation and did not need to be heard”, the Express learnt.

Ali yesterday said she became the target of the ERHA’s board because she had initiated several audits into the authority during her one month tenure and had started “mashing a lot of corns”.

“The gave me no reason why they fired me,” Ali said.

“What I do know is I was doing a lot of work there and mashing a lot of corns. There is currently a human resource audit because the hiring practice is very questionable, of nepotism, and familial links,” Ali said.

“An audit also is currently going on in the pharmacy department into purchasing of unregistered drugs from India from small companies through the suitcase trade,” she said.

“I wanted to start an audit in the legal department on questionable giving out of briefs. I am new and in order for me to steer the organisation in a proper manner I must know what I have because I would be running helter skelter like a headless pigeon,” Ali said.

Ali said she also uncovered a situation where doctors were being hired for one day a week at a cost of $20,000 to $25,000 a month to taxpayers.

“That is $5,000 to $6,000 a day when you could just pay $5,000 a month and get a full time doctor,” she said.

“Those are areas that I was looking into not that I was looking into them for corruption but I wanted to see how I could steer the organisation properly so poor people can get what they are supposed, by law and right, to get,” Ali said.

Ali said she would always get herself in trouble because she believes “poor people deserve to get their just due”.

Ali said she will be attending today’s meeting with all the documents she has collected so far.

According to section five of the Regional Health Authority Act, Ali said the minister can overturn any decision by the board.
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