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Opposition Leader Godwin Friday says there should be an investigation into what led to a shortage for oxygen for use in medical procedures at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital last week.

Last week Tuesday, Nov. 22, Minister of Minister of Health St. Clair “Jimmy” Prince told iWitness News his ministry was addressing an oxygen supply issue at the hospital but he was not aware that surgeries had to be cancelled, as a source had told iWitness News.

But Friday, speaking on his weekly radio programme on NICE Radio, said he had learnt of the situation first hand, adding that it is not a development that “we can drop so lightly”.

He said on his radio show on Monday that he had been told of the situation by someone who was at the hospital and had seen people wandering around the hospital trying to find out where oxygen was so they could take it to where it was most urgently needed.

“Could you imagine that? That in the hospital, you have dozens and dozens of cylinders. — I’m told 100 cylinders, I don’t know if that was the exact amount — but there were cylinders there that were empty, empty, and then they don’t have oxygen in the hospital.”

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Friday said that the situation was “completely unacceptable”. 

He said that in the case of a scheduled surgery, it might be possible to postpone it for a few days without any negative impact on the patient.

“But what about the person who is hooked up to it then and needs it? You can’t tell me that you are in a situation where you ran out of oxygen and people did not suffer,” Friday said. 

“There must be an investigation of this. This is a serious matter. This is life and death. This is a matter of life and death. You can’t just sweep this under the rug, you have to find out what was the cause? Why did this happen? And put measures in place to ensure it does not happen again,” he said.

“Why would you have 100 empty cylinders there not filled? Why weren’t they sent to the supplier to have them refilled? And how can you operate in an environment, in a hospital, where you don’t have oxygen or oxygen is not readily available when you need it.” 

Friday asked whether the situation had developed because the hospital did not pay its bills.

“These are questions that the Minister must answer because it just creates more dread within people,” he said.

The opposition leader noted that the situation was discussed in the media but there had been no official statement from the government.

“It just makes people feel even more afraid to go down to the hospital. Because some people already are terrified when they hear that they have to go to the hospital. And that has to be addressed,” he said.

“And it has to be accounted for. And the minister has to come to the public and own up to it and say this is the situation and give the assurance that it will never, never happen again. It’s simply unacceptable.”

Last week, Prince told iWitness News that there had been a problem with the oxygen suppliers but the hospital had never been in a position where they could not have done medical procedures because they had a backup on the wards for Accident and Emergency, Intensive Care Unit and for the operating theatre.

“What they have done, they’ve put in a temporary mobile plant now – today,” he said, adding that the pump at the plant of one of the suppliers went bad.

“So, they immediately tried to remedy it because they didn’t want to run out. And we have also made arrangements to get, just in case, a contingency, to bring in from Trinidad and Barbados just in case that the plant doesn’t work,” Prince had told iWitness News

But Friday suggested that the situation could have been avoided with proper hospital management. 

“If you are part of a management of an institution as critical as the hospital, the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, our premier medical institution, and something as basic as oxygen that you have not provided for that, that you don’t have oxygen in the hospital, who is running this show?” Friday said.

“And if now, you have somebody who’s at the head, who’s the head administrator, how can you have confidence in that person to say that person then could take on some other responsibility of representing a community and being a minister and so forth?”

Hospital administrator Grace Walters has been identified as the candidate for the ruling Unity Labour Party for North Windward in the next general elections, constitutionally due by February 2026.

3 replies on “Opposition Leader calls for investigation into oxygen shortage at hospital”

  1. Only oxygen, ah plenty things alledgedly na da down day. It is said that they are accused of not paying the supplier and also credit from local pharmacies of which accused of not paying them also. Thank Abba Father that my asthmatic nephew is lucky to be alive. Remember ar yo love me than ar yo health.

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