The Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) appeared before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament yesterday for the second time in two weeks, where the team was commended for their performance.
Brigadier George Lewis’ appearance before the PAC comes just a little over a week after his acting appointment to the position of CEO.
“I want to commend them because this is my third PAC with the GPHC and I think that this performance is a very good one,” Minister Valerie Patterson stated. Similar sentiments were also expressed by Committee Chairman Irfaan Ali and member Nigel Dharamlall.
Among the queries raised regarding the corporation yesterday was the purchase of 68 x-ray cassettes worth $1.883 million which were bought in 2010 but have still not been received.
Lewis related that based on the investigations carried out by the police, the company, A J Med X Ray, located in Clearwater, Florida, was a shell company that is no longer in existence.
Lewis said that the advice received from the police is that the money be written off, which he said GPHC is in the process of doing, so the matter should not be reflected in the next report.
Asked by member Jermaine Figueira when the police first intervened in the matter, Lewis said records show that they became involved in January 2015. He noted that the GPHC is trying to be more diligent in the selection of companies with which they conduct business as a means of preventing such a recurrence.
Lewis was advised by Committee Chairman Irfaan Ali to find out who the principal of the company was and whether that individual is associated with any other companies locally and to seek help from the United States embassy in addressing the matter.
The CEO said the non-delivery of the items has had no impact on the functions of the corporation other than the issue of value for money as other cassettes were subsequently acquired and the department continues to function.
Another issue raised yesterday was that of the overpayment of salaries.
The Audit Office recorded salary overpayments of $1.368 million for 2012 to 2015, and related deductions totalling $84,252 had not been recovered at the time of reporting in 2016.
The GPHC indicated in its update that for the year 2012, $59,217 were recovered leaving a balance of $514,993 and for 2015, $91,668 were recovered, leaving a balance of $756,773.
Lewis said that the overpayments were due to employees abandoning their positions without notice to the company and so changes could not be made in time for salaries to be withheld.
The GPHC said the Human Resources Department has reminded all Heads of Department to immediately notify it when employees resign.
Questioned on the issue of expired drugs and the monitoring of their shelf-life, Lewis related that while a system had been in place for monitoring, GPHC has plans to address the issue of donated drugs, which has proven to be the source of most of the expired drugs within the health system.
These include instituting a minimum shelf-life for the donation of drugs, implementing a shelf-life policy for drug purchases—at least 18 months, and moving to have the system computerized so notifications are delivered on the status of the drugs.
Asked by Ali if he is comfortable with the level of supplies available for the efficient delivery of healthcare, Lewis said that he could not give a position at that moment, because he is still conducting a review of the corporation but should be able to make a definitive statement in a short while.
The last appearance by the GPHC before the PAC on May 29 was steeped in acrimony. The then Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Allan Johnson and a Finance Director, Ronald Charles were asked to leave the hearing after they were unable to answer the questions that were being posed to them. Johnson’s performance before the PAC was later cited by the GPHC as grounds for his removal as CEO. Lewis then took over.