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MCMH in crisis of immense proportion – Cummings

MCMH in crisis of immense proportion – Cummings


“A crisis of immense proportion.”

This is how Daniel Cummings, the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) shadow minister for health, described the fact that up to press time, there was only one functional anaesthesiologist at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH).

Cummings also opined, while speaking at a press conference at Democrat House on Wednesday, that many nightmares surround the delivery of health care in the country.

Recently, the MCMH has had to cope with the fact that two of its anaesthesiologists fell ill within days of each other and several elective surgeries had to be postponed.

In the wake of the postponements, several persons, including Cummings, the parliamentary representative for West Kingstown, spoke of the postponement of one surgery in particular, that of social activist Oscar Allen, who died days after his surgery.

It had been inferred by some that the postponement of Allen’s surgery on two occasions was somehow responsible for his death. This, however, has been refuted by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who said the medical authorities at the MCMH informed him that the delay was not responsible for Allen’s demise.

On Wednesday, Cummings said that an anaesthesiologist is extremely important to a medical institution and the fact that only one is present at the MCMH means that that institution is able to deliver “but a fraction of the operations which are necessary for the saving of lives.”

The Ministry of Health has since been able to source an anaesthesiologist from neighbouring Barbados on a very short term basis, but SEARCHLIGHT was unable to ascertain if this person had arrived in the country.

Cummings said that ordinarily, there are three anaesthesiologists on staff and when that is very quickly reduced to one, there is no argument that a “serious” problem has arisen.

He said that the situation in respect to Allen exemplifies the lack of understanding that the Ministry of Health has in respect to the provision of anaesthesiologists.

“When the person who is in charge said that he made contact and had Oscar Allen to have an operation and be very proud of that and having given the distinct impression that despite the fact that he was on vacation, he had solved the problem, it tells us that we are deep trouble,” said Cummings, adding, “He said that, because in his mind, the problem was getting the late Oscar Allen to do an operation as soon as possible, without any regard for the dozens of other persons who are unable to get their operation done because they don’t have the anaesthesiologist.”

Cummings was speaking about Minister of Health Luke Browne, who appeared on the OMG in the Morning radio show with Dwight “Bing” Joseph last Monday.

Cummings said that the nation was told that an anaesthesiologist would be in the country by last weekend, but on Monday Browne told listeners that he was not sure if the person had arrived.

“This says that beyond a shadow of a doubt, he clearly does not understand the seriousness of the situation and the importance of recruiting an anaesthesiologist and that speaks to the level of care in the Ministry of Health,” stressed Cummings.

“Anaesthesiologists are people that are trained physicians and who go on to do specialized work at an accredited anaesthesiology residency,” said Cummings.

He said that when the Unity Labour Party’s (ULP) Dr Douglas Slater was the Minister of Health, there were serious problems and the Ministry sank even lower when he was replaced by Clayton Burgin as Minister.

“None of us could believe that St Vincent’s health care system could have gone below a level of that offered by Clayton Burgin; lo and behold, that has turned out to be a reality,” said the outspoken Cummings.(LC)