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Eastern Health CEO not fired after all

By Andre Bagoo Tuesday, December 10 2013

A LETTER of termination which had been issued to the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA) Ameena Ali by its board on Sunday was yesterday withdrawn after a meeting with the Minister of Health Dr Fuad Khan.

The minister held a meeting with the ERHA board, the CEO Ameena Ali, and public servants at the ministry’s offices at Park Street, Port-of-Spain, in the wake of unrest at the authority which had triggered three days of emergency board meetings which culminated with a board decision on Sunday to fire Ali.

“We had a frank discussion,” Khan told Newsday after the meeting. “What emerged is this is more of a relational issue more than a functional one. But we have dealt with it. After much discussion, the chairman agreed to revoke her termination. She will be re-instated pending further assessment.” He did not elaborate.

On Sunday members of the board met at the ERHA’s offices in Sangre Grande for the third time after complaints about Ali came to its attention. Board members said about a dozen doctors, pharmacists, nurses and senior medical staff had handed in letters of resignation over Ali, whom they described as having poor “inter-personal” skills. Without interviewing Ali, who was appointed on November 1 and is on a probationary period, the board on Sunday issued a termination letter after taking statements of complaints from staff members and seeking legal advice from Seenath Jairam, SC.

The board members said the situation threatened the standard of patient care at the ERHA institutions — which includes two hospitals and about a dozen medical clinics — since mass resignation would have had an impact on staff resources available to patients.

However, Khan yesterday said no staff member of the ERHA had resigned.

“Nobody tendered their resignation,” he said. “They could thereafter. However, I think things will work out.” But though the minister struck an upbeat tone, it is unclear if the issues reported at the ERHA will be completely resolved. In a press released issued yesterday afternoon, the Ministry of Health said while some unspecified issues had been resolved, others remained pending.

“The meeting was cordial and advisory and everyone had the opportunity to speak openly and freely,” the ministry said, adding a “retreat” will be held with all the stakeholders.

Ahead of the meeting Khan had expressed dissatisfaction with the board’s move in a newspaper report published yesterday.

Contacted yesterday after the meeting Ali declined comment. Asked to respond to the reports of complaints in relation to her, she said, “How did you get this number? I have never spoken with the Newsday. I have nothing to say.” Asked to respond to reports of complaints over poor inter-personal skills, she said, “Obviously you don’t understand so I am going to stop this conversation now. Have a pleasant afternoon.”

Ali was previously at the NWRHA but was transferred. A judge in 2004 found that transfer was unjust. There are also reports that Ali also held posts at the NCRHA and on the Pharmacy Board before being appointed to the ERHA.

ERHA chairman Dr Stephen Bhagan said he would seek to move forward and would speak with staff of the ERHA. He said he hoped the upcoming retreat would result in changes.

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