THE NEW TODAY wish to put Grenadians on notice about a move currently being piloted by the Minister of Health, Nickolas Steele to privatise a portion of the COVID-19 testing conducted at the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA).
This newspaper is very suspicious of the true intentions of the minister to involve the private sector in a system that should be totally under the control and purview of the Government of Grenada.
The fact of the matter is that there is a National System in place and any problem therein with the testing can be fixed and resolved at minimum cost to those who should be benefitting from the system.
The government will not tell Grenadians despite its boast of how well the country is doing in terms of low COVID-19 numbers that there are serious problems with some aspects of the system especially the testing mechanisms at the airport.
It took over five-and-a-half hours to process 83 passengers who came into the island on a recent JetBlue fight from New York which one person described as scandalous and a national disgrace.
This kind of statistics can give an indication of the time that it would take the system put in place by Minister Steele at the airport to handle a full load from JetBlue.
The Prime Minister placed the Health portfolio in the hands of the Member of Parliament for the South St. George constituency to find solutions to the problems and to provide better healthcare for the people of Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique.
Mr. Steele is trying to find an easy way out of the COVID-19 testing problem that can be easily solved by the Ministry of Health.
Why would the Minister seek a private provider to get involved in something that can be handled by the doctors and nurses that are already being paid by the taxpayers of the country?
Why are those in authority seeking to blame the Public Workers Union (PWU) for being a stumbling block in preventing them from putting together a system in which our State-paid nurses can do the same job (and even earn an extra dollar), that the government is trying to give to a private provider?
THE NEW TODAY is sure that these same nurses will be hired by the private provider during their off-days from the St. George’s General Hospital to do the COVID-19 testing at the airport.
Is somebody in the government trying to put some easy money into the hands of a private provider for a service that the State can easily perform?
Is there anyone in the current government with a financial interest in a particular private sector medical facility that they want to channel some money into its coffers?
Mr. Steele came to government from the private sector and is fully aware that businessmen operate on the basis of profits.
It is quite clear that the introduction of a private sector component in the Covid-19 testing at the airport will result in higher costs to returning nationals at a time when money is already scarce.
And THE NEW TODAY is very suspicious of the statement made by Mr. Steele that government has sent out a “Request For Proposal (RFP) “to the medical fraternity” to get their involvement in the so-called private labour component in the COVID-19 testing.
Can he list the names of those medical facilities that were contacted up to Thursday this week with the RFP?
This newspaper was able to double check with one of the most reputable service providers on the island and it did not receive any such request from Minister Steele and his government.
However, the name of a particular service provider was given to us as the “chosen one” by government amidst reports in certain quarters in the country that a particular member of the NNP regime has a financial interest in the institution.
Is it any wonder that many persons are very suspicious of this scheme as hatched by government out of fear that something is amiss to fatten the pocket of someone at the expense of the poor and unsuspecting Grenadians who are coming back home.
This is similar to the statement made in Parliament last week Wednesday that the government had put out a bidding process to source the private provider that was given the job of putting toilet paper in the various constituency offices around the island.
Would the Prime Minister and Leader of Government Business provide proof of the bidding process that was advertised in the Government Gazette and the local newspaper to select the provider from Happy Hill who was given the contract?
It is an appropriate time to remind the people of an article carried in the pages of this newspaper a few months ago about the scandal involving COVID-19 testing kits involving two private sector medical facilities that saw an opportunity to make a dollar from the deadly virus under the NNP government.
On another note, this newspaper would like to pay homage to a colleague in the media profession who passed away very suddenly on Tuesday morning.
The death of Vincentian colleague, Jerry George is a major loss and blow to our profession which is already badly lacking in talent.
2020 has been a very unfortunate year for the media landscape in the Eastern Caribbean as Grenada itself suffered an irreplaceable loss with the death of our broadcast icon, George Grant.
Is it by coincidence that Jerry and George died while on the job and doing what they are best at performing in the profession?
Like George Grant, Jerry George’s passing has left a massive hole that will not be filled in the immediate future and might never be, due to the fact that many of the younger generation of journalists are failing to come forward as a beacon of hope in the media landscape.
THE NEW TODAY extends heartfelt condolences to the family of Jerry, the members of the media in St. Vincent & The Grenadines and our own Beverly Sinclair who had a very close working relationship over the years with our fallen comrade in the struggle.