The recent Cabinet reshuffle announced by Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell has raised the eyebrows of many in the country especially with the additional portfolio of International Business given to Minister of Health and Social Security, Nickolas Steele.
A few days ago, an executive member of the Public Workers Union (PWU) indicated that there are so many burning issues in health at the moment that he could not understand the logic with burdening the Minister with another important portfolio.
However, Minister Steele holds a different position and does not see the new portfolio as taking away from his focus on Health Care in Grenada.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday at the weekly post-Cabinet Press Briefing at the Ministerial Complex, the senior government minister sees it “as complementing my portfolio in health.”
“I do not see it as taking away from health,” said Minister Steele who came into government with a private sector background.
According to the senior government minister, there is a direct link between his responsibilities in health and his responsibilities in International Business.
“Our issues within the health care system are directly related to the fact that we are a developing country that we have an economy that cannot necessarily support the level of health care that we all would like to see and in order for us to solve those issues, we have to improve our economy and international business fits nicely into it,” he said.
When the ruling New National Party (NNP) government was voted back into office in 2013, Steele was handed the prestigious position of Minister of Foreign Affairs and was often globe-trekking on State business.
After a series of diplomatic bungling involving China, he was removed by PM Mitchell and made the Minister of Health.
Steele sought to remind reporters that even as Foreign Affairs minister he was serving the island’s health sector.
“Previously when I was in Foreign Affairs and International Business, the same portfolio, for instance, I negotiated with the UAE for nurses to go there. We haven’t finalise that but that’s one of the things I intend to be looking at. Immediately though, I will be dealing with the “Doing Business Index” to improve our Doing Business ranking here in Grenada,” he said.
Minister Steele alluded to the existence of “a competent team” of officials within the Ministry of Health who would be able to help to get the work done.
“…While I am a hands-on Minister in any Ministry that I have, it’s policy and guidance that the Minister puts forward in his portfolio and allows the competent individuals to be guided in the right direction, to the direction that the Cabinet wants to go, in the direction that the people have given us in terms of the mandate…”, he said.
Among the major issues confronting the health sector at the moment are the presence of the Zika virus on the island and opposition from the trade union representing health care workers for improvements in their working conditions and greater job security.