Help us to help you - Volunteers concerned as red tape ties up hospital donation
A group of St Mary-based volunteers has claimed that bureaucracy and red tape in their local health care system have deprived one of the country's most underdeveloped hospitals from receiving a much-needed donation of $170,000.
Speaking during a Gleaner Growth Forum at the Beaches Resort in St Mary, president of the local branch of the Lay Magistrates' Association (LMA), Maxine Marsh, revealed that since last year, her organisation has been unable to donate the considerable funds they raised for the Port Maria Hospital (PMH).
In 2015, after consulting with the medical officer in charge at the PMH, Dr Maurice Sloley, the LMA raised $170,000 to buy a specialised patient trolley.
However, Marsh noted that almost six months later, the agency responsible for delivering and managing health care in St Mary, the North East Regional Health Authority (NERHA), has yet to issue the LMA with a suitable invoice that would allow it to purchase the equipment.
She explained: "We have funds to give [PMH] and are working with Dr Sloley to see if we can give them a particular item because we don't want the money to disappear into NERHA's coffers.
"When I got their invoice, it had taxes, which I asked them to take off because we are not prepared to pay tax for an item that's going into a government hospital. From last year, I've been waiting for them to take off the tax, and then they came back and told me they can't it off."
The LMA is now considering simply handing over a cheque to the PMH, but the group is concerned that instead of purchasing the trolley, NERHA might divert the funds to support other facilities in the region.
Marsh said: "I must tell you, we are very nervous about it because everything we give to PMH, [NERHA] takes and gives to Annotto Bay [Hospital], and it's just not fair. We feel like we'd like to fix our hospital, but we can't hold on to any equipment we put in there."
Responding to Marsh's comments, NERHA's parish manager for the St Mary Health Service, Nadia Nunes, said the hindrance had probably stemmed from miscommunication and promised to resolve the matter swiftly.
She told The Gleaner: "It is unfortunate the process of the LMA's donation has been delayed. I have had a discussion with Mrs Marsh, and having been made aware of the situation, have given her my commitment that I will get a new invoice.
"NERHA will even give a commitment to purchase the equipment, so it is clear to the LMA that we will purchase exactly what they want. NERHA always does what donors ask because we respect their money and the fact they have worked hard on our behalf to make donations to the people of St Mary."