-claims institution suffers from political interference
Guyana’s premier public health institution, the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation
(GPHC), is faced with a protracted drugs shortage challenge. This state of affairs was yesterday amplified by Dr. Carl ‘Max’ Hanoman who during a press conference held at his Brickdam, Georgetown clinic, attributed the situation to political interference.
Dr. Hanoman up to Wednesday was the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the hospital.
But he insisted that during his tenure as Chairman he was not able to operate independently because of interference from Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton.
Dr. Hanoman was appointed to the position of Chairman earlier this year after Dr. Noel Blackman who was initially identified for the position of Chairman was found to be involved in an indiscretion linked to his United States-based medical practice.
Yesterday’s press conference came on the heels of Dr. Hanoman’s receipt of letters from the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Public Health, Mr. Trevor Thomas, and Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton, informing him that the life of the Board had come to an end effective November 30, 2016. Dr. Hanoman said that he had received these letters one day earlier.
While Minister Norton urged in his letter to Dr. Hanoman that projects such as the appointment of a Deputy Chief Executive Officer (DCEO), which was initiated by Dr. Hanoman, be left to a newly appointed Board, the Permanent Secretary hinted that he (Dr. Hanoman) was not likely to return as a Board Member by wishing him “success in his future endeavours.”
According to Dr. Hanoman, he had taken up the meagrely compensated ($10,000 per month) task of Chairman with the understanding that he would be in that position for a period of three years.
This publication was reliably informed that typically, the life of the Board is supposed to span the period of three years with the members of the Board being informed of the continuance of their membership in the month of November each year.
But Dr. Hanoman is convinced that he was essentially relieved of his duty because he did not always “see eye to eye” with the Public Health Minister.
Dr. Hanoman disclosed too that when he took up the role as Chairman he immediately recognised that there were a number of difficulties at GPHC. He claimed that he was prepared, despite little or no support, to improve the operation of the hospital.
“There were administrative difficulties in that governance was poor…the nurses and doctors were not getting along and the place was in turmoil,” related Dr. Hanoman as he revealed that on the occasions that shortages of drugs were highlighted in the public domain the Minister would wrongly assure that this was not the case.
“Patients would accost me on the road and say they don’t have insulin or the hospital does not have this or that type of drugs…” divulged Dr. Hanoman as he pointed out that addressing the problem was not easy given the prevailing interference.
“I realised at that time that the hospital could not have been autonomous…decision making processes were under the thumb of the Minister of Health. He felt he was the ‘all-powerful’,” said Dr. Hanoman. He disclosed that his many efforts to address the drugs shortage issue and other problems at the hospital it were often to no avail.
The situation became even more damning, according to Dr. Hanoman, following the revelations of a forensic audit that Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the hospital, Mr. Michael Khan, was guilty of some indiscretions in carrying out his duties.
In spite of the findings and the fact that a recommendation was made for Khan’s services to be terminated, Dr. Hanoman said that he decided to retain him. But this, he noted, yesterday, was only intended to be for a period in order to utilise Khan’s institutional knowledge to help improve the facility. He alluded to his need for Khan’s support to help revamp sections of the hospital that are required to facilitate clinical sessions for medical students of the University of Guyana.
This was recognised as a necessity to aid the possible re-accreditation of the School of Medicine by the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professions (CAAM-HP).
Khan has since been sent on leave which will end in July 2017 after which his contract will not be renewed.
“I am not an advocate for Mr. Khan but…if a Government appoints a Committee of Inquiry and pays $8 million of taxpayers’ money I am duty-bound to heed the recommendations of that Committee,” said Dr. Hanoman.
He, however, noted that when the Board of Directors questioned the auditor as it relates to Mr. Khan, the pronouncement was not in sync with the publicised findings. It is Dr. Hanoman’s belief that “(Dr.) Norton had his own agenda against Khan and he did tell me that there is no way that Khan is going to come back here.
“’I said but the man is a civil servant, he must have rights…’”
According to Dr. Hanoman, he is convinced that his dealing with Khan’s situation was “right and just”.
He noted that he was also prepared to act similarly with the Director of Nursing Services (Matron), Sister Collene Hicks, pending the outcome of an investigation into complaints levelled against her. In this case too, Dr. Hanoman said that Minister Norton instructed that Sister Hicks be sent home.
“It was reported that I was the one who sent the Matron on leave but that was not so…The (Minister) said he did not want the Matron there because she was causing disruption at the hospital,” related Dr. Hanoman.
Dr. Hanoman also has an issue with the fact that while efforts were made to retain a Deputy CEO in the absence of Mr. Khan to help with the management of the facility this too has essentially been put on pause by the Minister.
In fact, he is convinced that the Minister has plans to put in place someone he has favoured for the position.
Although attempts were made to appoint the DCEO with the Minister’s approval, Dr. Hanoman said that this simply was not realised and this too he believes was due to deliberate interference.
Dr. Hanoman is certain that he was not allowed to be effective in his duty as Chairman because the Minister simply did not want him to be there from the day he was appointed. According to Dr. Hanoman, what is particularly troubling to him is that although he was appointed by the Ministry of the Presidency he was relieved of his duties by the Minister and the Permanent Secretary.
According to Dr. Hanoman, he has written to President David Granger seeking an audience with him but he is yet to be granted this privilege.
While he is not willing to return to the hospital as Chairman during the tenure of Minister Norton, Dr. Hanoman said that he is however worried about the efficacy of the operation if it is not under professional management.
“(Minister Norton) never worked along with me; there was no cooperation…he is myopic and I will not go back to Georgetown Hospital if George Norton is the Minister of Health. I hope the Government sees the wisdom in looking after the health of this nation,” asserted Dr. Hanoman.
But the Minister of Public Health in an invited comment yesterday insisted that the decision to relieve Dr. Hanoman of his duty as Chairman was not his doing but rather it was a Cabinet decision. “I seldom, if ever, make decisions without Cabinet’s approval just to be on the safe side.”
Commenting on the reported drugs shortage situation, the Minister shared his belief that while such a development is more a shortcoming of the Board and its Chairman “the Minister gets the blame.”
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