PORT OF SPAIN — A private-practice scandal has been unearthed at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex at Mt. Hope.
A Guardian newspaper investigation has revealed that private clinics at the complex are being run by 12 doctors, who are employees of the North Central Regional Health Authority.
Investigations further revealed that several of the doctors are no longer attached to the EWMSC, but continue to run private clinics there. Some of the doctors receive monthly salaries ranging from $22,000 to $28,000 from the NCRHA, as well as earning thousands of dollars from the private clinics.
The Guardian learned that on a daily basis up to 50 patients visit the private clinics and the doctors’ fees range from $300 to $500. The private clinics are open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday.
A copy of the private-practice doctors’ schedule as of this month showed 15 per cent of fees from the private clinics are paid to the NCRHA. It was further discovered that the medical equipment used by the doctors to run their private clinics is the property of the EWMSC.
According to the private-practice schedule, the doctors specialise in:
* Cardiology (five doctors)
* General surgery
* Internal medicine
It was in 2004 that former prime minister Patrick Manning, in his October 8 Budget presentation, announced that with effect from January 1, 2005, services at the EWMSC would be free to all citizens. The state-run institution previously operated like a privately-owned hospital at the expense of taxpayers because doctors employed at the EWMSC were allowed to run private clinics there.
Investigations found that patients are still being made to pay for medical services that should be accessible free of charge. Some patients seeking medical services at the EWMSC are being advised to visit the private practice of the doctors to obtain treatment at a cost. In several of the cases, investigations found patients are being told to visit the private clinics of the doctors to avoid having to be placed on a long waiting list.
However, patients classified according to life-threatening/critical cases are expected to be given priority at all medical institutions. Further investigations revealed that on the basis of triaging, the patients being referred to the private clinics are deemed to be non-critical. (Guardian)