Today’s Editorial April 14: HSA has work to do

Last month, when the Health Services Authority confirmed Lizzette Yearwood as its CEO after she had acted in the role for more than two years, Board Chairman Pastor Al Ebanks praised the achievements of the HSA during those years.

Mr. Ebanks noted, among other things, that during Ms Yearwood’s tenure, there had been ‘a fundamental transformation in the trust, confidence and working relationship between the Board and the executive leadership of the HSA, as well as with our business partners and the public’.

Although we are not in position to speak about the working relationship among the HSA executive leadership or between it and its Board of Directors or business partners, the results of the most recent online poll speak loudly about its relationship with the public.

The two-week poll, the full results of which can be found on page 12 of today’s newspaper, asked how confident the respondents were in the quality of health care provided by the HSA. Only about 30 per cent of the respondents said they were very confident or somewhat confident about the quality of the HSA’s health care, while 65 per cent said they were not too confident or not confident at all.

Just as telling, the results of this poll correspond almost identically with a very similar poll question in October, 2007 that asked people how much confidence they had in the HSA.

The most recent poll had 492 respondents and the 2007 poll had 466 respondents. While responses in the two polls are the same within 2 per cent, the results show people are actually a little less confident of the HSA now than they were in 2007.

Assuming the poll sample is indicative of attitudes of the wider public, and we have no reason to believe they are not, it seems the HSA has a rather daunting public relations challenge.

Perhaps part of that challenge has to do with what was missing in Mr. Ebanks’ assessment of the HSA last month when he announced Ms Yearwood’s appointment as CEO. He contrasted the situation now with that of 2005 and 2006, when the organisation had been in newspaper headlines almost daily; he spoke about the low staff morale back then, the exodus of employees and the lack of stable leadership.

He also talked about the financial turnaround and expectations that the HSA will lose considerably less than the $14.2 million it lost in 2006/07. In addition he spoke about increased efficiency in billing procedures and debt collections.

All of these accomplishment are progress and worthy of praise.

However, what Mr. Ebanks failed to talk about was the quality of the health care provided by the HSA, and ultimately, that is what matters most to the people who have to utilise the organisation’s services.

Until the government, the HSA board and its executive management understand that the paramount concern of the public is the quality of health care it provides, people will most likely continue to have little confidence in the organisation.