The New Today
Editorials

Don’t blame Steele alone!!!

THE NEW TODAY wishes to differ significantly and fundamentally with attorney-at-law Jerry Edwin who has called for the head of Health Minister Nickolas Steele over the Covid-19 crisis that unfolded in the island in recent months resulting in massive deaths especially among our Elderly citizens.

It seems rather strange that Edwin will make a plea for Grenadians to pray for Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell’s health and well-being as he feels that something must be wrong with the Grenadian leader for taking so long to give the pink slip to his minister.

On page 3 in this week’s e-paper, the outspoken attorney was all over Minister Steele for being the person still in charge of the Health portfolio in the country with all that has transpired in recent months with Grenada’s handling of the Covid-19 situation.

Why these platitudes to the Prime Minister at this stage from Mr. Edwin? Is there more in the mortar than the pestle?

THE NEW TODAY holds the view that the buck stops with Dr. Mitchell as the leader of the government and not merely Minister Steele as the one to take full responsibility for the damage done to us by the deadly virus.

It is not our intention to come to the defence of the minister because he is more than able and capable to explain to the Grenadian people the systemic failings or a lack of a plan where Covid-19 is concerned.

Without the Minutes of the many meetings of the Cabinet of Ministers and their deliberations on the virus, it is a useless exercise to try and understand some of the thinking which went into decisions or lack of decisions by the authorities in the fight against the virus.

The critical issue to us is whether Minister Steele was given the tools including the budget with the finances that were needed by Grenada to handle the situation at hand.

Many solid proposals were put forward by Grenadian health experts to government and the Ministry of Health in terms of getting Grenada Covid-19 ready.

One of the proposals was to upgrade the Ministry of Housing building in Marine Villa that is in close proximity to the General hospital and turn it into a Covid-19 hospital.

The former Political Leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Franka Alexis-Bernardine also came up with a proposal to use the Princess Alice Hospital at Mirabeau as the Covid-19 hospital and leave the General Hospital to handle the other patients in need of medical care.

Grenada is blessed with an abundance of expertise and manpower in the area of construction to erect any makeshift facility for Covid-19 patients in quick order.

Did the Cabinet of Ministers under Dr. Mitchell’s leadership and guidance sit on the many proposals that were put forward and did nothing of substance to get us ready for what Covid-19 did to us over the past 4 to 6 weeks?

THE NEW TODAY can say with confidence that as Minister of Health, Mr. Steele should have been in a very good position to know what the other neighbouring islands especially those within the sub-regional grouping of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) were doing to prepare themselves for the arrival of the virus.

There is in place a chat group where the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) in each of the respective territories is in frequent contact with each other and exchanging information on a regular basis on their strategies to face head-on Covid-19.

Despite financial limitations, some of the other islands were putting in place a parallel health system with hospitals, isolation centres and relevant facilities to prepare for the coming of the virus.

Our neighbour to the south, Trinidad & Tobago had prepared many health facilities with up-to-date equipment to take care of its sick Covid-19 patients.

THE NEW TODAY is also aware of the many frustrations of the National Covid-19 team in their failed efforts to convince the Prime Minister to shut down the country for at least a 2-week period a few weeks ago when the virus was raging as it was felt this was necessary to help to slow the infection rate.

The response was seemingly to go out into the communities and fight the virus. What and where were the tools at hand to fight this invisible enemy? The message came out clearly that government was more concerned with finance than the health and well-being of the nation.

Fundamentally, the country is not aware whether as an organisational tool there was a Cabinet sub-committee in place that was always meeting to take decisions on the way forward.

It should be noted that while Mr. Edwin is calling for Minister Steele’s head, he seemingly forgot that the Grenada Treasury was under great and severe financial constraint not due to the 4% increase in the wage bill due to salary hikes owed by the government to public sector employees in agreements signed with their unions.

However, an estimated EC$200 million that could have bolstered our Covid-19 efforts were denied Grenadians as Prime Minister Mitchell and his Minister of Finance, Gregory Bowen had to find it to save face in an embarrassing court battle they lost with WRB Enterprises on the Grenlec issue.

Clearly, this money had to be found by whatever means necessary to satisfy the “egos” of both Dr. Mitchell and Bowen who have been waging a battle spanning 25 years against the decision of the former Congress government of Sir Nicholas Brathwaite in 1994 to privatise the loss-making electricity company that was known for many days of black-outs in the 1980’s.

If anyone should be fired for Grenada’s Covid-19 situation is the Prime Minister and not Minister Steele.

Unfortunately, Mr. Steele became the lone voice in the wilderness at the height of the crisis when Dr. Mitchell should have been seen holding onto the steering wheel of the ship of State and sailing us into safe waters but he was no way around leaving many to wonder if he was still in charge of the affairs of the country.

Mr. Edwin, this was a clear demonstration of failed leadership by a Prime Minister with five electoral victories under his belt including back-to-back 15-0 victories at the polls in 2013 and 2018.