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By Aabigayle McIntosh
Antigua and Barbuda’s Health Minister, Sir Molwyn Joseph, has recently asserted his right to intervene in the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre’s (SLBMC) operations.
He explained that this right comes from the country’s Constitution and not solely from the Mount St John’s Medical Center Act, which governs the center’s functioning.
During a news conference held on Tuesday, the Health Minister referred to Section 10 of the aforementioned Act. He argued that the section grants full control of the medical center to a management company and limits ministerial involvement.
According to Section 10 (1) of the 2009 Act, “The Minister may give general directions as to the policy to be followed by the Board in the performance of its functions as appear to the Minister to be necessary for the public interest, and the Board shall give effect to those directions.”
This means that the Minister can provide general guidance on the policies that the Board must follow to ensure the effective functioning of the SLBMC.
However, Section 10 (2) clarifies that “The Minister shall not direct the Board, its officers, servants, or agents on how it manages the daily operation of the hospital”.
This provision prohibits the Minister from interfering with the Board’s day-to-day management of the hospital, including its staff and agents.
In summary, while the Health Minister can provide general guidance on the policies to be followed by the Board, he cannot interfere with its daily operations under the Act governing the SLBMC.
“The constitution says the Minister shall exercise direction and control over that department and subject to such direction and control the department of a Permanent Secretary,” the minister said.
The healthcare facility’s deterioration was attributed to contradictions within the act, and ongoing repairs were needed in critical areas. The absence of a maintenance manual for future guidance worsened the situation. The Minister personally visits the facility weekly to advocate for changes.
He vowed to continue to visit regularly, adding, “I have the energy to go up there every day”.