SWRHA has remained proactive | Letters to Editor

The South-West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) has noted recent news stories and a newspaper editorial centred around the opening of the Point Fortin Hospital as a Covid facility, and the impact of this opening on regular, non-Covid healthcare services for the community.

By media release on Friday, May 21, 2021, SWRHA advised the population that due to the mandated conversion of the Point Fortin Hospital (PFH) to a Covid facility on the same day, emergency services for regular health matters were available at the San Fernando General Hospital and Siparia District Health Facility. Emergency ambulance transport access to these services have always been with a national service provider, not under the remit of the SWRHA.

Also on the same day, Friday, May 21, now only two weeks ago, SWRHA made a site visit to the Heritage Petroleum asset of the dormant Point Fortin Medical Centre at the commonly known Trintoc Administrative Building. Refurbishment activities since by Heritage Petroleum, in collaboration with key community stakeholders, has placed the Authority in a position from this proactive approach to state in the near future the intended use of this facility offered for use to SWRHA, in meeting the regular health needs of persons in Point Fortin and environs.

By another media release two days later on Sunday, May 23, 2021, SWRHA further advised the population that additional health centres in nearby communities to Point Fortin and environs would accommodate the displaced hospital outpatient clinic regular services. This started May 24, 2021, and included the start of the 8 a.m.-to-8 p.m. walk-in services at Point Fortin Health Centre.

On Wednesday, June 2, 2021, on the tenth day after the start of the regular walk-in services at the Point Fortin Health Centre, SWRHA reviewed in light of the progress thus far with the Heritage Point Fortin Medical Centre, and noted the imminent availability of needed staff, not previously available, later that same day after interview, and decided proactively to extend the walk-in services to 24 hours, at Point Fortin Health Centre on Wednesday, June 2, 2021.

It is to be noted that the ten-day lapse to get sufficient staff hires followed due timeframes for hiring processes, and was reflective of the restricted labour market. SWRHA, since early last year and in the height of the first wave of the pandemic, hired staff, many of whom work now at the Point Fortin Hospital.

This hiring has continued since then to now to address both regular needs arising from standard replacement of persons who have been promoted or retired from regular service, but to also address the progressive expansion of Covid and repatriate facilities over the last 15 months. It has gotten more and more difficult each time, as the global pandemic has worn on, to find staff hires available to work in the public health sector.

Regarding the issues raised recently in the media regarding employees at Point Fortin Hospital, particularly reportedly being raised by nursing personnel, the SWRHA has placed high regard for all categories of staff working at our regular facilities. This regard extends to all Covid facilities both within and outside the SWRHA where our staff have been deployed.

Our staff have benefited in this wave of the pandemic from our offer of mental healthcare support, national policies on appropriate rational use of PPE with regular training, regular meals for those who have requested same and sleeping quarters at San Fernando, Point Fortin and Augustus Long hospitals, given both the extended hours of service our patients have required as well as the more recently enacted curfew regulations.

There has been a standard internal complaints system whereby employees can share their concerns and have them internally investigated and addressed, and has been the SWRHA preferred mode of interface with staff in addressing complaints. The SWRHA has revitalised our internal Employee Solutions Desk. The occupational health needs of employees, both Covid- and non-Covid related, are addressed by the Occupational Medicine Unit.

However, given our first order of complaints addressed are those formally registered in our confidential internal complaints system, we take this opportunity to continually encourage any staff who has a complaint to avail of same.

Letting one’s supervisor know promptly of issues first and to be given a reasonable timeframe and opportunity to resolve internally and amicably is also in keeping with the SWRHA grievance policy.

A positive and peaceful work environment ultimately benefits the patient who depends on both Covid and regular healthcare services, now more than ever for survival in trying personal circumstances, particularly at this time in our nation’s history.

The SWRHA continues to invite our valued patients and clients to contact our Customer Service Centre at 87-SWRHA (877-9742) for any matter in relation to healthcare.

Corporate Communications Department, SWRHA

San Fernando

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