By Caribbean News Now Contributor
PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands -- Former Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) chief minister Oswald Skippings has called on the leader of the opposition Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson to present a motion to the House of Assembly calling for a full disclosure of an agreement with Inter-Health Canada, a full audit that covers its entire existence, and a full criminal investigation into the healthcare contract.
“Then the sheep would be separated from the goats and the public will see who is for, and who is against, and why. Moreover, we will finally get justice and relief from this albatross that's hanging around the neck of every taxpayer in this country that is going a long way to impoverish us all,” Skippings said.
He referred to the return by extradition of former premier Michael Misick to face extensive charges of corruption. As well, he said, there are other former ministers who have also been charged over the past two years.
“Yet after one full year since the people of this country democratically elected 15 representatives to the House of Assembly, there has been nothing but anaemic rhetoric concerning this ordeal of a deal made in hell, signed in London and sanctioned by the British government,” Skippings said.
“Consequently, we continue to pay tens of millions of dollars into the coffers of British investors, while the cost of living is escalating daily, people are jobless and hungry and are being denied healthcare; and we are being taxed through the nose every day to facilitate this blatant corruption,” he continued.
According to Skippings, without transparency and accountability in government to determine the true amounts being paid out, $70 million is a conservative estimate that is being paid out annually for a mere 30,000 people.
He referred to an 18-paragraph press statement on healthcare presented by the leader of the opposition, out of which he said he had chosen only the following few paragraphs and not necessarily in chronological order, to highlight the political and economic paralyses that the allegedly corrupt healthcare deal has put this country in:
“The budget now following the supplementary places healthcare as the largest expenditure. Healthcare costs over $61m out of approximate expenditure of $200m. This does include the ministry and primary care for that amount pales in comparison to what is spent on the Interhealth Canada arrangement.
Primary healthcare still suffers with scarce resources in clinics around the islands. Vital basic life-saving medication is still insufficient. There is now a practice on islands outside of Providenciales and Grand Turk for residents to borrow and lend each other medication, and residents still too often are forced to pay for their own air travel to one of Interhealth Canada’s facilities. In North Caicos recently, traffic accidents received no visit from the ambulance and residents were forced to remove injured and place them on trucks. After the amounts that we are paying in healthcare, this is unacceptable.
Though the Premier Dr Ewing has said that the contract was implemented wrong, he has made no real effort to correct its implementation and to ensure that our people have the best care, and have affordable access to the use of the facility.
After one year and three ministers, healthcare remains unaddressed. Important positions are still not filled and are just now being advertised, important audits have not begun and are yet to be completed, NHIP’s audits remain elusive, as promised by Premier Dr Ewing, under 18-year-olds are still paying for access, the unemployed are still covered for 90 days and if unemployed for too long, not covered at all, the financial audits are somewhere, clinical audits have not begun, the Health Regulatory Authority is not in place, the National Lab is far from properly established, primary healthcare is short on much needed resources, medical students and nurses are left unemployed, increase in care for illegal immigrants with no effort to curb costs increase in care for illegal immigrants with no effort to curb costs and the unemployed are still not covered.
We are still in a position where we are paying into the NHIB’s program but do not have access to a list of services or what is actually covered under the plan.
It is against this background, that the Opposition today announces that it intends to communicate these concerns and others to His Excellency Governor Beckingham to the relevant authorities and to call for a major investigation into the healthcare system."
Skippings said that one of the questions that is so pertinent is why is there such apparent kid glove approach and fear in dealing with this matter officially; and who stands to be implicated?
“Where is the justice we voted for, where is the representation that we voted for, where is the transparency that we voted for, where is the courage to take the bull by the horns and subdue this beast to be accountable, democratic and respectful to our people and stop it from trampling on our human rights and our dignity as a people?” he asked.
Skippings reminded Cartwright-Robinson that, during the election campaign in 2012, together they promised the people that corruption would stop and that the healthcare albatross that is causing such a national distortion of the economic and social situation would be exposed and dismantled.
He said that, after one year in office, merely announcing an intention to communicate to the governor and to the relevant authorities and to call for a major investigation into the healthcare system is just not good enough.
“Since for some mysterious reason, no elected official from either side of the floor knows what to do, let me help you along. In an effort to get a resolution of the House of Assembly, present a motion to the house calling for a full disclosure of the Inter-Health Canada agreement, a full audit that covers its entire existence, and a full criminal investigation into this healthcare deal, the same as SIPT has been doing now over the past few years on Turks and Caicos Islanders and other non-British investors,” Skippings said.