Just under a year ago much debate developed in Barbados on the appointment of Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland to the post of executive chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH). The furore that accompanied the selection came mainly from political sources or those with political agenda. Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn, who normally gets his pronouncements very correct and whose input on the legislative functioning of government is always required listening, was among those who criticized the appointment. At the time he said Government was finding jobs for family, friends and party hacks. Bynoe-Sutherland’s only ‘sin’ it seemed was that she was the wife of a sitting government minister. No one debated her qualifications or aptitude for the job with respect to meeting required criteria.
In the midst of accusations of government encouraging nepotism, the affable Barbadian administrator publicly responded to the naysayers with the simple plea: “Just give me a chance.” As the first anniversary of her appointment approaches, indications and Bynoe-Sutherland’s report card suggest that she is far from being a political hack and that hers was indeed an inspired, even if political appointment. Unsolicited reports emanating from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital are that the executive chairman is very much a hands-on leader who encourages and get results without meddling in the actual provision of medical care to patients. It has been reported that she is an excellent communicator, accessible and approachable by staff at both ends of the professional ladder.
At the time of Bynoe-Sutherland’s appointment, she would not have envisaged that Barbados would soon be in the throes of the global Covid-19 pandemic. The QEH often cops much criticism – some warranted, some unnecessarily harsh and unreasonable. Barbados’ doctors, nurses and ancillary staff, have been giving yeoman service in the face of the global crisis. Some might suggest that they are simply doing the job for which they are being paid, in like manner perhaps to a plumber fixing a leaking tap. But plumbers hardly ever expose themselves to life-threatening viruses one day and then turn up to do the same thing the next day. If we are so quick to criticize, we ought to be equally swift to praise when indications are that our healthcare professionals and the laypersons responsible for administration and oversight are functioning at significantly high levels.
It might have gone unnoticed but indications are that over the past year waiting periods in the Accident & Emergency Department have decreased, even if the wait still ought to be further reduced. Amputations in Barbados have also decreased which is a testimony to improved lifestyles by Barbadians as well as improved patient-care by the professionals responsible for treating non-communicable diseases. Bynoe-Sutherland outlined a ten-point plan to transform the institution into a more patient-focused and customer friendly facility last year. She said then that an organization-wide campaign on delivering good service would be rolled out through the use of ongoing patient surveys, giving snap awards for exceptional service, and expanding employee recognition and reward systems to highlight great service, along with holding poor providers accountable if they failed to meet high standards. Reports suggest that these have not been mere empty words.
In addition to overseeing the clearing of much of the internal and external debt of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Bynoe-Sutherland has also been very much involved in enhancing the financial management of the facility especially as it relates to accountability. In essence, Bynoe-Sutherland has seemingly not been sidetracked by the shadow of her political husband or the debate that her appointment generated last year.
On the occasion of her appointment, Prime Minister Mia Mottley was at pains to convince Barbadians that their tiny island could not afford to ignore or waste the talents of its gifted professionals simply because of their marital or familial connections. “Let’s get real, in small societies, there is a limited talent pool and if we were to start saying that people who were related to each other should not work, then half of the Government of Barbados would be in trouble,” Mottley said at the time.
We often hear of horror stories associated with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The heartwarming tales are infrequently told. Our state institution is neither all good nor all bad. Those outside the walls of the QEH have an important role along with those within those walls to ensure more positive tales emanate from the hospital’s corridors. We ought to support those making the effort, even if they happen to be someone’s wife, husband or paramour.