Systems are being put in place to improve the quality and delivery of health care but staff must take responsibility as well, Minister of Health Dr Fuad Khan has said.
Addressing medical practitioners and students at The University of the West Indies (UWI) Improvement in Health Care Quality and Delivery conference at the Hyatt Regency (Trinidad) hotel in Port of Spain last Friday, Khan spoke about the importance of having quality systems in place.
He pointed out: "You are only as good as your staff, and you are only as good as your staff's behaviour. If your staff's behaviour is not in keeping with proper patient care activity, then you are in a serious problem."
Khan said if escorts at the hospital decided to not come to work or not show up when they are needed to take patients around the hospital, it affected the quality supply chain and the result was poor-quality service.
Using the example of a common traffic violation, Khan said there was a habit in Trinidad to break red lights and to break major roads, and the more this was done without getting into problems, people tended to get into a comfort zone with the practice.
"So you do something wrong the first time, you are worried, but you get away with it," he said, adding after getting away with it for a third time, it becomes the norm until something bad happens.
"When I am confronted as the Minister of Health with a death in the public sector and an investigation is started, the pressing question is were we adhering to recognised principles. Also, the private sector, when these things occur and we look into it, we find that there was no adherence to recognised principles, international best practices and international standards," he said.
He said although the sector had come a long way, there was still the question of the reason behind these mistakes.
The country, he said, has been successful in achieving its millennium development goals in maternal and child health care.
"However, maternal mortality rates leave a lot to be desired, and we are trying to get it to zero. As the Minister of Health, we have been speaking with the Minister of Tourism on medical tourism, but for medical tourism to occur, we have to be able to compete."
"Nobody is going to come to this country for medical tourism because we say we are cheaper or better. We have to show from an accredited standard, from an accredited method of approach, from an accredited system," he added.
Khan said the long-term approach for the Chancery Lane Teaching Hospital in San Fernando was that of medical tourism and for quality care of citizens.
He added that clinical auditing, which had begun in all regions, was showing up deficiencies in the system, and steps were being taken to improve this.
Complaints of long waiting lists for various services are also being addressed to improve the quality of care, he said.