Commentary: The Problems with the NICU at POSGH

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By Dr Neil Gosine

IN a blistering indictment of the Port of Spain General Hospital’s operations, a recent investigation by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has unveiled significant deficiencies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), resulting in multiple infant deaths in April 2024.

This revelation shone a bright spotlight on the minister of health’s tenure, highlighting systemic failures and a lack of proactive oversight.

The PAHO team’s report reveals a troubling scenery of operational inadequacies, including staffing shortages, outdated equipment and insufficient training for NICU personnel. These deficiencies not only compromise the quality of care but also directly endanger the lives of the most vulnerable patients that is our newborns in critical condition.

One of the primary responsibilities of the minister of health is to ensure that healthcare facilities are sufficiently resourced and that they operate under stringent standards to provide safe and proper care. Nevertheless, the PAHO report makes it abundantly clear that the POSGH has been neglected under his watch. The minister’s failure to address these glaring inefficiencies points to a broader problem of mismanagement and slackness within the healthcare system.

The lack of proper staffing in the NICU is particularly concerning where patients numbers grossly out number staff. Neonatal care requires a high level of specialised training and persistent attention, something that cannot be achieved with inadequate personnel. The report’s findings of understaffing suggest a significant failure to prioritise critical care units. This raises serious questions about the allocation of resources within the healthcare sector and points to a breakdown in systems.

The outdated equipment is another story and is highlighted in the report. Where does all the money go that we the taxpayers pay to healthcare infrastructure? Clearly not in modern medical technology that is essential for diagnosing and treating critically ill newborns. The minister’s inability to manage and maintenance our medical equipment is a glaring oversight that directly impacts patient outcomes.

There is obviously serious training problems among NICU staff that also shows the minister’s failure to implement robust professional development programmes. There seems to be no continuous education and training programmes that are crucial in the ever-evolving field of neonatal care. The report pinpoints the lack of adequate training for healthcare workers in the NICU and shows a significant lapse in ensuring that medical staff are equipped with the adequate knowledge and techniques to provide the even a decent standard of health care in T&T.

The report has also shown the minister’s lack of accountability and failure to put in place any necessary reforms within the framework of  the POSGH. The PAHO report serves as a wake-up call, emphasizing the urgent need for leadership within the health sector and shows the minister is incapable of addressing the systemic issues plaguing the healthcare system.

The deaths of newborns in the NICU are not only tragic but unacceptable and shows the consequences of these systemic failures. The minister’s inability to safeguard the well-being of the most vulnerable patients is a stain in his credibility where we only saw utter failure of his portfolio.

Immediate action is required to rectify these deficiencies, the public trust is eroded, and we have no faith that he can ensure that such tragedies do not recur. The minister of health must take full responsibility for these failures and pay the ultimate cost by resigning his post forthwith. The lives of Trinidad and Tobago’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens depend on it.

Neil Gosine is an insurance executive. He was appointed a temporary Opposition Senator, an ex-treasurer of the UNC and a former chairman of the National Petroleum Marketing Company of Trinidad and Tobago (NP). He holds a Doctorate in Business Administration, a Master’s in Business Administration MBA, BSC in Mathematics and a BA in Administrative Studies. The views and comments expressed in this column are not necessarily those of AZP News, a Division of Complete Image Limited.


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