TRHA Medical Chief of Staff Dr Victor Wheeler

A member of the public graded the performance of the outgoing Tobago Regional Health Authority’s (TRHA) board of directors as unsatisfactory during a virtual public accountability meeting on Tuesday night.

The assessment came almost at the end of the meeting after the board and staff members gave an account of the authority’s stewardship since June 2018.

TRHA financial manager Angell Second-Ali said the authority’s debt stood at $96.5 million as of May 2020.

“The quantum of debt as at the end of May, we owe $33 million to suppliers, we also have payroll liabilities in the sum of $49 million and we have other commitments in the sum of $14.5 million, so that brings us to a total of approximately of $96 million in debt at the end of May,” Second-Ali said.

Second-Ali said wages and salaries accounted for 76.5 per cent of total expenditure.

The board and staff members were subjected to a barrage of complaints and questions from the public. One person asked how the authority’s 2019 payroll and manpower audit could be accessed and whether any of its findings were implemented. In reply, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Westly Orr said he could make the findings available to the public.

In March 2019, the TRHA said an independent audit had to be done so the authority’s expenditure could be assessed. However, staff sent on leave with full pay remained at home long after the audit was over. This move prompted Tobago’s Progressive Democratic Patriots to call for its findings to be made public, although some of the findings were leaked after its then-CEO, Sheldon Cyrus, was sacked.

Members of the public also wanted answers to other issues, including the wait time at the hospital and maintenance of the hospital’s machinery.

Medical Chief of Staff Dr Victor Wheeler said the wait time, especially in the casualty department, was an ongoing issue always under review. Westly also said the air condition units in the maternity ward would be fixed within the next six months as money is available to affect the repairs.

During this board’s tenure there were four different CEOs, three of whom acted in the position and one who sacked.