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'Don't penalise private hospitals for abuse of system'

By Anna Ramdass

Private hospitals should not be demonised because of the failure of regional health authorities (RHAs) to deal with the abuse of the system, says chief executive officer (CEO) of West Shore private hospital Umesh Rampersad.

Last week, Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan said that hundreds of millions were spent by the RHAs in outsourcing medical services from private hospitals—which he stopped.

In a statement to the Express, Rampersad said that it was time for the Government and the Health Minister to clearly articulate its policy regarding private health care in Trinidad and Tobago.

Rampersad noted that medical transfers to private hospitals for ICU (intensive care unit) services were based on a policy decision of the Ministry of Health and the RHAs established certain procedures and controls.

"These controls ranged from regular medical reports from the consultant to the referring doctor; audit of care and invoices by the designated RHA employees; invoices were even audited by the Ministry of Health," stated Rampersad.

"If any weakness or abuse of the system existed, then the regional health authority or the Ministry of Health should have investigated and resolved the situation. All the private hospitals should not be demonised or penalised for whatever failure or abuse of the system," he added.

Rampersad stated that in all developed nations private and public health care co-exist to the benefit of the citizenship.

He pointed out that, currently, substantial money is due from the RHAs, in particular the North Central Regional Health Authority, and that the Health Ministry is still owing private hospitals for the "Joint Replacement Programme" since 2007-2008.

"The fact is that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago simply cannot increase its bed capacity and services in the short term to satisfy the needs of the country. Outsourcing to the private hospitals is a good option and certainly not new in clearing the backlog of cases in the public hospitals," stated Rampersad.

"Perhaps it might be worthwhile for the Honourable Minister to ascertain the number of Trinidadians now deprived of ICU care because of the ban on transfers to private hospitals," he added.

Private health care cost, stated Rampersad, is comparative to the major medical tourism designation.

"The Government of Trinidad and Tobago can do much more in assisting private hospitals in reducing cost to the population by way of duties and tax exemptions," he stated

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