The photograph of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley back at work after undergoing an angioplasty is certainly good news and we wish him continued healing and the strength needed to lead the country.
As has been widely reported, Dr Rowley was rushed to West Shore Private Hospital after experiencing chest pains last Friday. An angiogram was done, followed by angioplasty. An angioplasty allows the artery to be reopened using miniature balloons, following which a small metal scaffold known as a stent is often left at the site of the blockage to maintain long-term patency.
The decision to take Dr Rowley to West Shore and not the Port-of-Spain General Hospital was an enlightened one because unlike West Shore, the General Hospital in the city’s capital that serves hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens does not have a catheterization (cath) lab. Without a cath lab, an angiogram and angioplasty cannot be done and the chance of a poor outcome significantly increases.
T&T currently has two public state-of-the art catheterization (Cath) labs – one at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) and the other at the Scarborough General Hospital.
Last year, the Business Guardian revealed that at least $70 million was spent on establishing the cath lab in Tobago but that it is not functional and has not been functional in five years.
So it would have been impossible for the Prime Minister to get the standard of care if he did had he gone to the public hospital.
This raises the issue of whether the standard of care is only good enough for officeholders and not the ordinary citizen of T&T.
Dr Rowley and his Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh have constantly boasted that the country has world-class healthcare in the public sector. Surely, they must know this is patently false and the events of the last week remind us of this.
But this does not have to be so.
In a document titled “Proposal for a National Primary Angioplasty Network for Acute Myocardial Infarction in Trinidad and Tobago,” a group of local cardiologists created a proposal for effectively treating with heart attacks in T&T. The doctors include interventional cardiologist Dr Ronald Henry and representatives of the local chapter of the Caribbean Cardiac Society, including its president Dr Pravinde Ramoutar and members Tricia Cummings and Roy Tilluckdharry.
The cardiologists explained that ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI) requires urgent intervention with modern therapies if the “natural history of 30 per cent case fatality is to be reduced to a target of five per cent.” The five per cent figure, they stated, is a reflection of recent surveys in developed health care systems using best practices.
The Minister of Health needs to tell the country what is the state of this proposal which seeks to establish a system that will allow anyone with a similar complaint like Dr Rowley to receive the same quality of care.
We are happy for the Prime Minister but citizens deserve quality care too.