HSA, public are losers

Various stories have been spread in recent times through the news media, in large part by the Minister of Health, regarding the dismissal and reassignment of several key personnel positions in the Health Services Authority.

Whether the facts have been stated in these various instances as to what actually happened most likely will never be known.

It is not unheard of for businesses to take stringent measures to restructure and reorganize, with the objective of improving efficiency and finances. Such actions normally bring about staff displacement and reduction.

Some hold the opinion that the HSA is presently taking such measures based on recommendations form a consultancy firm to implement much needed reform. This has not been confirmed by the HSA management or the Health Ministry. If it is the case, a statement to this effect would be simple enough to make and thus inform the public as to the changes taking place.

It is however known that the present Chief Executive Officer was chosen by the present HSA Board of Directors and with the knowledge of the present Health Minister. It is reasonable for the public to assume that his selection was done on the basis of careful consideration of his qualifications and experience and his personal presentation during his interview.

Should the public believe the numerous accusations and innuendo levelled at this individual, the board of directors et al must have made a monumental mistake in his selection. Is it logical to believe that the individual chosen as CEO was some reckless and sadistic person who has been wantonly insulting and dismissing long serving staff from their jobs with no reference to his superiors, or no thought given to backlash?

Additionally, should it be understood that this entire scenario is being played out by an individual who is just over 90 days old on the job?

Instead could it be that all relevant parties knew of the changes, but when the sparks began to fly, all concerned adopted the timely and convenient path of cowardly denial? The Minister for Health has made various statements in the recent past concerning changes to be made in the HAS; were staff changes not one of them?

In any event it is repugnant to any concept of good governance for a Minister of Government to hold a political trial in the media of a member of staff in a statutory authority or a department for which he is responsible. The CEO should obviously realize he has been tried and sentenced. To his credit, throughout his political trial, the CEO has maintained what might be seen as a professional silence. One might assume he is awaiting a rightful opportunity in the boardroom to answer his accusers.

It does also seem advisable he should engage an attorney to defend himself, apparently not for what he has done illegally, but what he has been accused of doing insensitively and without the knowledge of everyone who should have known.

The Minister of Health, no less, has written the book of Lamentations about what he did not know and did not want to happen. The public needs to be told what he did know. In this process he has apologized to one staff member, her mother, husband and brother who is his colleague Minister in Government. One would wonder if it would have been fitting to apologize to the extended family of the other members of the staff of HSA who were displaced or removed. The most recent apology from the Minister as published in the media has been made to the CEO who has been so highly berated. This provides a glimpse of the sincerity in the profusion of apologies. The question could be asked, they why the fuss anyway and was anyone or anything wrong with what has taken place?

In this latest debacle of the HSA the real loser is the organization and the public. There should be no doubt that the HSA has an ongoing need for improvement in its services and to at least a break-even in its finances. This view in no way detracts from the steadfastness of service given over the years by HSA.

If actions taken by management of the CEO of the HSA were insensitive, this matter was to be dealt with internally. A Minister of Government apologizing in the national media for the alleged action of a CEO in an entity for which he holds political responsibility, which were later repudiated, does little for matters being handled in a proper and sensitive way.

As the HSA issue is in the public forum in negative fashion again, it would be of public interest to know if some of the victims have been paid up to three years salary in settlement, where such salary was about $100,000 per annum, separate and apart from any pension benefits. Even if such was correct, it is a small price to pay if it leads ultimately to the greatly needed improvements in service and finances.

In reaching such a goal the Minister for Health or the Ministry does not have any legal authority under the HSA Law to adopt the role of personnel officer for the HSA. The authority lies with the HSA Board of Directors and its management. Thus the published requirement by the Minister that all personnel changes must be cleared with his office is a direct interference, contrary to the Law.

As it presently stands, the residents of the country must wait in doubtful anticipation that the news from the HSA will be in the best public interest, instead of a political supplication; it wasn’t me.

Gilbert A. McLean

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