Minister of Health Nickolas Steele has confirmed that there have been cases of pilfering in the hospital which have been brought to the attention of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF).
The senior government minister made the statement in response to a question from a reporter at last week’s post-Cabinet Press Briefing held at the Ministerial Complex in Tanteen, St. George.
He was specifically asked whether or not there is an ongoing investigation into the issue of stealing at the country’s main health facility following controversial comments made by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell to an audience in Brooklyn, New York.
“I am not privy to the status but I know there have been issues and we in Ministry of Health are not responsible for investigating where there is criminal intent or possibility of criminal intent”, he said.
PM Mitchell slammed hospital workers including doctors and nurses for widespread stealing of food supplies including meat at the St. George’s General Hospital.
According to Minister Steele, there have been cases that have been referred to the police and other units that he did not specify for investigation.
“Once we do that, it’s outside of my control or the Ministry of Health and we just hope that they cooperate to say that whether there is ongoing co-operation on issues that could have criminal and immoral activities proven”, he said.
The minister stated that health care workers should not feel being incriminated on the issue of stealing at their work place as such activities occur in almost all government ministries as well and in the private sector.
“What we should all be doing is adopting a position of should one of us be found, minister, permanent secretary, public servant at any level, be found to be conducting activities which we as a society deemed to be unacceptable, immoral or criminal, that we should be standing up and saying that’s unacceptable and that we would welcome such investigations because such an investigation would do two things – would find the wrongdoers and to exonerate the rest of us who are not doing it”, he said.
In responding to the statement made by PM Mitchell, the Public Workers Union (PWU) which represents workers at the hospital stated that it had not received any reports of wrongdoings on the part of its members and it was also unaware of an investigation taking place on the issue.
Minister Steele conceded that the union might not be privy to such information.
He said: “I would think that the Public Workers Union (PWU) and hopefully the nurses and doctors representative would be very familiar with the rules and regulations of the public sector. If there was an investigation going on, it’s not likely that they would be informed about it until the results of the investigation, unless one of them in particular was under investigation.
“… What was clearly said, and I am clearly saying is that many, if not all of our healthcare providers provide yeoman service. So, if there is an investigation going on (with) one particular individual or group of individuals, it should not in any way incriminate or have any of them feel that they are incriminated by it”, he added.
The Health Minister reiterated that the remarks made by Dr. Mitchell in New York on pilfering and incompetence in the hospital was “taken out of context and blown out of proportion”.
When Minister Steele was asked if he shared the sentiments of the Prime Minister as stated in New York, he responded: “As Minister of Health, as a Grenadian and as a parliamentarian who was present and made statements, I share the sentiments of what was discussed entirely. If you take any of the statements made in isolation, you can find an argument to go one direction or another but I spent almost an hour at that meeting praising the progress made in our health care system.
“…So, if you want to ask me if I share the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister at that meeting, yes, if you want to ask if I am willing to join others to take one of those statements out of context, no,” he said.
The minister called on the nation and health officials to move past this issue and work towards the development of healthcare in Grenada.