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Health Minister wants to lift media ban

Tuesday, December 13 2011

Reports of bad attitudes and problems at health facilities have prompted Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan to reconsider lifting the ban on media having access to health institutions.

He wants the media to expose deficiencies in the health system with the hope that this would lead to improvement. Khan said last weekend he had received reports about “attitudes” and problems in the nation’s hospitals and he would meet with the regional health authorities (RHA) to consider lifting the ban on media entering public health institutions.

The former administration introduced the Regional Health Authority (Conduct) Regulations 2008, which included a clause prohibiting health workers from talking to media without authorisation. The regulations were drafted to govern public officers after they were transferred to the RHAs. Media have been told that the chairmen and chief executive officers of RHAs are authorised to speak for the organisation.

Responding to questions from media after the opening of the orientation programme at Crowne Plaza, Port-of-Spain for health care professionals from Cuba, Khan said, “You (media) will be able to look at the negatives, report them and at the same time don’t sensationalise them. Interview the people responsible for non-maintenance, indifferent attitudes, hostile security behaviour to our patients and their relatives. In doing so I do hope we will be able to upgrade our health system to a manner that is going to be excellent.”

Khan said he had to speak to ministry and RHA personnel to come up with a policy. He said the privacy of patients who do not want media coverage must be protected. “You will be allowed to interview (anyone) you so desire but keeping the privacy of the patients which is the most important part of it. In doing so you will be helping me by putting people on the radar so they will have to do their jobs better.”

Asked about the regulations which restrict medical personnel speaking to media and whether these would be amended, Khan said the regulations could be changed and this was why a policy had to be developed.

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