Under fire Health Minister Nickolas Steele says government has heard the complaints of the general public and is currently addressing the myriads of problems affecting the island’s ailing health sector.
During his contribution to the debate on the 2016 Budget, Minister Steele informed the House of Representatives that he “proudly stood” and listened to the nurses at the General Hospital who voiced their frustration during a recent protest action.
“I understand the issues, I understand also that our nurses are the fibre that holds our health system together… and that is why I could proudly stand with them knowing what their problems were, identifying with their problems, and most importantly… knowing that even before they took to the streets, we were well on the way delivering on their complaints, their issues,” he said.
The Health Minister told the Lower House of Parliament that 45 nurses were hired this year, and that government is in the process of hiring an additional 30.
However, he said this will be done while maintaining government’s attrition policy, and also maintaining the budgetary constraints.
As part of the three-year Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), the Keith Mitchell-led Administration in St. George’s has embarked upon an attrition policy which provides for no more than three persons to replace every ten persons who retire from or exit the public service in order to help cut expenditure.
Minister Steele disclosed that government is now moving forward on six building blocks in the health sector.
He said that great emphasis is being placed on infrastructure which is critical in the delivery of health services.
Parliament was informed that in conjunction with the Ministry of Works, renovation of the Doctors’ Quarters at the General Hospital is complete, the Eye Ward was rebuilt, the Isolation Ward within the Private Block has been completed, the Gynecology Ward is 95 percent completed, and repairs are in progress at the Children’s Ward.
Minister Steele provided Parliament with an update on the functioning of the Operations Theatre at the General Hospital.
He said new chillers for the air condition unit have been received due to the non-functioning of the central air condition unit at the theatre.
According to him, split units were installed after the air condition unit stopped working “but after a while because the air was not circulating or being extracted, it increased the likelihood of bacterial infection and mole within the air.”
The Health Minister said that as a result and for a significant time of the year, only emergency surgeries were being done at the theatre.
“The Surgeons made a call, a proper call, that they would not risk elective surgeries,” he old fellow legislators.
Part of the oxygen machine along with the compressor at the theatre also broke down causing it not to be functioning at a hundred percent.
Minister Steele said that as a result of the compressor not working, the brand new anesthesia machines could not be plugged in for fear of getting damaged.
He announced that the necessary parts for the compressor have been received and expressed the hope that by year-end the anesthesia machines will be functional.
The Health Minister said the incomplete steel structure on the compound of the main hospital in St. George’s has been converted to three storeys and the actual concrete work will soon start to complete a project that will cost $3.7M.
As a result of a partnership between the Government of Grenada, the Grenada Electricity Services Limited, and the Benjamin Foundation a brand new X-Ray Machine is to be installed at Princess Alice Hospital at Mirabeau in St. Andrew.
According to Minister Steele, the hospital will also benefit from a new Registrar who will take up duties from this month, as well as an additional compliment of nurses.
Princess Royal Hospital at Carriacou will also receive a new Registrar by year-end, and government is in the process of acquiring a new blood-work machine for the facility, Minister Steele said.
In the area of Human Resource, the Health Minister disclosed that five nurses who were trained in Cuba have been hired, while scholarships were offered to five doctors in specialised areas.
As part of Health financing, Minister Steele announced that government received from the donation desk $19,840,000, Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) $225,000 in technical assistance, from the Global Fund for the elimination of HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), tuberculosis and malaria $67,000, and $135,000 in electronic immunisation registry system from the Centre for Disease Control.
The senior Government Minister reported that coming out of the recommendations made by a government-appointed Committee to look at National Health Insurance was the formation of an Implementation Committee to move the process forward towards the establishment of National Health Insurance.