The termination of contract came after an “industrial relations problem” involving pharmacists at the NRC which resulted in intravenous chemotherapy being halted for scores of persons with cancer.
However, Newsday learnt that the persons whose contracts were terminated did not work at the NRC.
As he left the graduation ceremony for Registered Nurses, Midwives, and Nursing Assistants at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya, Health Minister Jerry Narace said, “The matter is being resolved, and there are people treating with the pharmacists. A solution has been worked out,” Narace said to reporters.
Told that patients were being advised to return next week, Narace said, “well I do not have all the facts at this time, but I am advised by the Permanent Secretary that the matter has been resolved and service has resumed”. Questioned if the Ministry was concerned about patient-care being compromised, Narace said, “we are always concerned about any issue that compromises quality, and we plan to take action”. Pressed to elaborate on the action he said the Permanent Secretary had scheduled a meeting and he would be able to report when the meeting was finished.
Newsday learnt that four of the pharmacists worked at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital and one at the St James Health Facility. They were reportedly instructed by NWRHA management to go to the NRC and mix the chemotherapy drugs, but they refused. A source said they raised concerns that they were not qualified to do this, and were concerned about their safety. The pharmacists were presented with a letter when they went to the Ministry yesterday.
They were working on “month to month” contracts since their three-year contract ended last October. The Ministry advised that since locals had qualified as pharmacists they were no longer needed.
On Wednesday at the Centre of Excellence, Chief Executive Officer of the North West Regional Health Authority, Agatha Carrington, said service had resumed and people who were scheduled for appointments would be treated Thursday and today. She said three pharmacists were added to the staff at the NRC, two were recruited and one was reassigned from the South West RHA. This will bring the total to seven pharmacists at the facility and they will be rotated to work one week and be off for three.
Carrington said training was part of the rotation. She apologised to patients for the interruption in service. “We are seeking to address the situation at this time. We are going to work diligently to address the backlog (of patients)”. The NRC has accommodation for treating 43 patients daily.
Sharlene Samuel was happy yesterday that her 70-year-old relative who was supposed to start treatment more than a week ago would be getting chemotherapy. The relative was diagnosed with breast cancer, and was in a despondent state waiting for treatment. However, Samuel said the relative has been advised that the cancer had spread to her stomach.
“That’s the hurtful part,”
Doctors wanted treatment to start since the end of January.