Health Minister Nicholas Steele has announced that a five-member investigation committee is being set up to deal with complaints from the public on health-related issues.
Speaking to reporters at the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing, the Health Minister said that the committee would provide counsel on what should be done in relation to these complaints.
Over the years, there have been numerous complaints from the public on the quality of Health Care being provided and the attitude of several Health professionals including doctors and nurses at the island’s main health facilities.
According to Minister Steele, the members of the committee would be independent of Government and has already been approved by the Cabinet of Ministers.
He said the body will be asked to deal with any and all complaints within the health sector and would then advise the Minister of Health on relevant actions that should be taken.
“The members of the committee will be made public within the next week, week and a half. We will announce who those individuals are. I have tried to nominate individuals who the public holds in high esteem and who have also come through recommendations or who would have the respect of the Social Partners as well…”, he told reporters.
“I have requested this because there have been numerous complaints on individuals within the health sector and in some cases it points to negligence, gross negligence in some instances or not carrying out duties properly”, he said.
The Minister went on to say: “I believe that while the ministry conducts its own investigations, I think for transparency and for members of the public who have had those complaints, it’s necessary to have an investigation committee outside of the ministry that would deal with any of the complaints and would advise”.
However, Minister Steele acknowledged that although the committee will have the authority to analyse every situation, the law does not permit it to take action on its own.
“They will advise both parties concerned – Party one being the Ministry of Health and the individual who the complaint was against and Party two being the person who have made the complaint. I believe that individuals within the public will feel more comfortable with such a process knowing that it is independent of the government,” he said.
The senior government minister announced that the committee members are expected to start work right away and to deal with complaints that are currently on the agenda and not limited to any specific complaint.
Minister Steele also addressed the prospects of duplicity of work by the committee with the institution of Office of the Ombudsman.
He said the Ombudsman holds the responsibility to deal with complaints in regards to the Public Sector and that the appointment of the investigation committee does not supersede that of the Office of the Ombudsman.
He spoke of setting up the committee in order to provide him with information so he can deal with those arising matters personally.
“It’s within the Ministry of Health and me with my role as Minister of Health and in trying to improve the quality of care that I have requested this committee that reports directly to me. That is separate and apart from the Ombudsman being able to take action on individuals going to the Ombudsman”, he said.
“That (Ombudsman) still exist for any individual to do but I think as Minister I would like to have the ability to act on complaints and to have independent investigation and to have independent opinion on complaints that are brought to the attention of the ministry,” he added.