Minister of Health Terrance Deyalsingh has taken personal responsibility for the decision to suspend elective surgery in Trinidad and Tobago due to COVID-19 concerns.
Speaking at a virtual media conference on Wednesday, Deyalsingh responded to claims that postponing of surgeries was a decision taken by the Chief Executive Officer of the South West Regional Health Authority, Dr Brian Armour.
He referenced a letter written by a former Medical Director of the San Fernando General Hospital, Dr. Anand Chatoorgoon, which stated that the decision to halt elective surgery has presented challenges to the ailing patients of the hospital.
“The Chief Executive Officer of the SWRHA Dr. Brian Armour should explain and apologize to the country why elective surgeries and the out-patients’ clinics at the San Fernando General Hospital (SFGH) were suspended.”
“There are many patients awaiting surgery in the specialties of Orthopedics, General Surgery, Gynecology, Ear, Nose and Throat, Burns and Plastic Surgery, Ophthalmology, Urology, Neurosurgery, Pediatric Surgery and Vascular Surgery. The waiting lists involving the poor and downtrodden in all these surgical specialties are growing longer,” wrote Chatoorgoon.
According to Deyalsingh, the decision was implemented nationwide by the Ministry of Health following the onset of COVID-19. He said that it was made by himself in compliance with the Chief Medical Officer and other chiefs of staff.
“Let me state again for the national community the decision to postpone elective surgery was a decision taken at the Ministry of health at the start of our response to this global pandemic which visited Trinidad and Tobago. It wasn’t an individual RHA decision, it was my decision as minister of health, supported by the Chief Medical Officer and Chiefs of staff at all the hospitals.”
“It was done out of an abundance of caution to give us redundancy in the healthcare system because we had no idea what the numbers of were cases we were going to get even though we built a parallel healthcare system. It is unfortunate that this individual continues to pedal this version of untruths and I want to categorically say this morning the decision to suspend elective surgeries was not a CEO decision, it was a Ministry of Health decision in collaboration with all chiefs of staff,” he said.
He added that these procedures have since restarted with the receipt of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
“As we said last week, once the appropriate PPE was identified and we got over this first hump which we have done we will restart elective surgeries at all RHA’s, So said, so done,” he said.