Health Minister Anthony Eden expressed his dismay Friday with the manner of the recent dismissal of a senior Health Services Authority staff member.
The HSA recently dismissed Kathy Gomez, sister of Cabinet Minister Charles Clifford and wife of Kerney Gomez, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of District Administration, Planning, Agriculture and Housing.
‘I cannot tell you how this has torn me apart,’ Mr. Eden said.
Mrs. Gomez was the HSA’s Chief Operating Officer and had been with the HSA and its predecessor the Cayman Islands Health Department for 30 years, Mr. Eden said. .
Mr. Eden did not criticise Mrs. Gomez’s dismissal, only the way in which it was carried out. Apparently, Mrs. Gomez simply found a letter of dismissal on her desk one morning.
‘Yes, changes have to be made,’ Mr. Eden said, adding however, that had he known about the impending dismissal, he would have tried to discuss the matter with Mrs. Gomez first.
‘I would have sat with her and talked to her to help soften the blow,’ he said.
HSA Chief Executive Officer Craig Brown’s people skills became a focal point with some in the community recently after it was claimed he asked Executive Air Services Ltd.’s owners, who have provided air ambulance services in the Cayman Islands for some 28 years, to leave his office (Caymanian Compass, 21 August 2006). Mr. Eden said he was looking into determining the details of that incident.
In addition, Mr. Eden said he understands that Dr. Fiona Robertson of the HSA was recently told in the middle of a shift, in front of staff and patients, that she was being transferred to another department.
Mr. Eden said he expected HSA staff to be treated with dignity.
‘I believe in processes,’ he said. ‘I believe in respect and sensitivity for all human beings.
‘This did not occur with Mrs. Kathy Gomez.’
Mr. Eden said he has discussed the matter with the HSA Board of Directors.
‘I expect sensitivity from here on,’ he said.
However, Mr. Eden said he would not micro-manage the HSA with regard to its personnel.
‘That’s happened too much in the past,’ he said.
Mr. Eden said Mr. Brown was given a mandate to improve the HSA.
‘Changes needed to be made,’ he said. ‘I didn’t want to tie his hands.
‘You cannot have an effective CEO if he has to go to the Board for everything.’
Still, Mr. Eden made it clear that he expects Mr. Brown to use a proper business acumen and diplomacy in his dealings with staff.
Mr. Eden would not comment on whether the recent controversy surrounding Mr. Brown would jeopardise his job.
‘I will leave that to the Board,’ he said.
Mrs. Gomez is not the only departing senior HSA staff member. Deputy Chief Operating Officer Shirlene Henriques has left the HSA to pursue another opportunity after the position was eliminated. Mrs. Henriques’ final day at the HSA was last Friday.
Mrs. Gomez and Mrs. Henriques formed half of the senior management team appointed to run the HSA in May 2004, two months after former CEO Michael Elliott prematurely left his post. The other two senior managers included Eloise Reid, who retired late last year, and Lizzette Howell, who remains employed by the HSA.
Mr. Eden issued a prepared statement for the media last week about the HSA staff shake-up.
‘Health is of course an area that impacts every one of us and I fully identify with the emotional responses that greet major changes within our healthcare system,’ he said in the statement.
‘But I also want to impress upon you the point that no effective healthcare provider dare stagnate, so change is as necessary as it is difficult to implement while providing uninterrupted service. And, regretfully, restructuring sometimes also means letting people go. But this must be done with sensitivity.’
Mr. Eden stated that a healthcare organisation must be in the compassion business, committed to caring for both employees and patients.
Making the hospital financial viability is another critical goal for the HSA, Mr. Eden stated.
‘But in that process, some of our suppliers may also feel the pinch,’ he stated. ‘But we cannot afford to lose sight of our overall aim-which is to provide the best possible service and the highest quality care, for the best possible price.’
Mr. Eden said that as Minister for Health and Human Services he was fully committed to doing whatever is necessary to achieve the goals set. He also warned that change is never easy, especially when changing the health services from providing free or subsidised healthcare.
‘The move to a model, which requires us to take responsibility for our own health and consequently, to share in the costs, is difficult to accept,’ he said.