February 5, 2010
Senator Cummings blasts Ministry of Health

Opposition Senator Daniel Cummings has chided this country’s government for what he has determined is “gross mismanagement” in the Ministry of Health.{{more}}

Cummings, in his address to the House of Parliament during the 2010 budget debate last Thursday, January 28, said that the management of institutions that provide health care services to this country must be dealt with very seriously.

“The issue is not so much about resources. It is the way we use it. It is the people we put in charge.”

The Senator, who is the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) caretaker for the West Kingstown constituency and has shadow responsibility for health and infrastructure, said that this “mismanagement” has led to a shortage of medication at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital and other health institutions due to the non payment of bills.

“This government was refused supplies from PPS for non payment of bills last year when they were spending money- millions of dollars (during the referendum campaign), and I can prove it.”

The Senator read from a letter which he claimed was written by the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States Pharmaceutical Procurement Services (OECS PPS), and another from Levi Walker, the manager of this country’s central medical stores.

The letter from Walker, written to the health ministry’s Permanent Secretary Lanceford Weeks indicated that supplies requested from PPS in October last year were not received, due to the suspension of the country’s account.

According to Cummings, the memo also stated that the suspension of the account had resulted in a number of supplies being out of stock, and some others at critically low levels.

Cummings said that with further research, the St. Lucia based PPS in its letter stated that this country’s government had been owing monies for products delivered during the early part of 2009.

“And this has been an ongoing problem with this particular government, Cummings claimed.

“I have gone to the hospital to visit a number of persons and I watch the pains in their faces.”

“They have been diagnosed. They have been given prescriptions. There is none in the government stores. They do not have the money to go to private pharmacy to buy basic medication,” Cummins lamented.

“In the delivery of health care, we have to rise above the joke when one looks at what passes for a hospital down there.”

Minister of Health Douglas Slater, who had interrupted Cummings during his presentation to deny what was being said, later apologized to Parliament, indicating that he was unaware of the information presented by the Senator.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves in his wrap up of the budget on Friday, January 29, addressed the allegations made by Cummings, saying that there was an accounting discrepancy between the government and PPS, but payments had been made, the most recent being a payment of $386,000 in January this year.

“At no time was there any problem with people going short of essential drugs. At no time was there that danger,” he emphasised.