TRINIDAD’s four regional health authorities (RHAs) spent $102 million in the effort against the covid19 pandemic, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh told the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Representatives on Friday.
He was replying to Fyzabad MP Dr Lackram Bodoe, who had asked details of each RHA’s 2020 expenditure, plus their 2021 programme of work.
Deyalsingh detailed their expenditure on covid19, namely for human resource, consumables, infrastructure and equipment.
“I could tell you offhand ERHA (Eastern RHA) spent $9.5 million on covid. North Central spent the bulk – $56.9 million –South-West $26.5 million, North-West $9.2 million.
“So the total covid response under these heads came to $102.2 million."
Bodoe urged the Government to consider including each RHA’s detailed accounts within the “yellow books,” that is, the budget's Draft Estimates of Expenditure.
Deyalsingh asked under which line item of the Ministry of Health’s budget was Bodoe speaking.
Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George ruled Bodoe was entitled to voice a general observation. Bodoe reiterated his suggestion, with Deyalsingh replying, “I take that under advisement.”
Also on the topic of covid19, Mayaro MP Rushton Paray later asked if a $20 million reduction in the ERHA’s allocation (from $460 million to $439.8 million) would mean fewer face masks for medical staff, among other things.
Paray said, “I’ve heard some of the employees are having challenges getting enough masks and so on, especially those in the high traffic areas (that is, the busy areas of hospitals/clinics).”
Deyalsingh replied, “I continue to be dismayed by the narrative that there are insufficient masks in the healthcare service.”
He said personal protective equipment (PPE) is provided on the basis of each healthcare worker’s risk of exposure to the virus.
“So those on the frontline, especially those engaged in procedures that involve intubation, which produces aerosols, get the highest level of PPE.
“Let me say it again, because it is a very unfortunate narrative. There is no shortage of PPE, from the start of covid to now. We have simply made PPE available at the correct level to the correct person at the correct time. Prior to covid, it was not like that.
"That’s a very unfortunate narrative you guys keep pushing, and it does not help.”
Paray said he was conveying what ERHA staff had told him as their local MP.
“The allocation should be a change of face mask every four hours. I understand they are asked to keep their face mask for the entire shift.”
Deyalsingh replied that PPE was given to staff based on risk of exposure and has never been in short supply.