Health authority denies chops at May Pen Hospital

THE Southern Regional Health Authority (SRHA) has denied that it has cut the budget of May Pen Hospital in Clarendon, although the institution’s acting Chief Executive Officer Eugena Clarke-James has said that its budget “was significantly reduced by 40 per cent”.

The revelation was made in a memorandum sent to department heads and supervisors at the hospital on Wednesday, creating unease and tension among staff.

SRHA is responsible for the delivery of health-care services to the residents of Clarendon, Manchester and St Elizabeth.

The reported budget cut comes as the country continues to push for a reduction in COVID-19 infections and deaths. However, chairman of SRHA Wayne Chen told the Jamaica Observer on Friday that no cut has been sanctioned by the regional authority.

“There has been no cut in the allocation for wages/compensation. The reference by the acting CEO of May Pen Hospital was to the difference between what they requested and what was approved. This has long been the norm in the budgeting process. In fact, that overall budgetary allocation for May Pen Hospital for Financial Year 2021/22 remains the same as it was for 2020/21,” Chen said when contacted by the Sunday Observer.

Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) Dunstan Bryan also told the Sunday Observer that the ministry was not aware of a reduction in the hospital’s budget.

He said that any such cut would come from SRHA as the MOHW does not have the “ability to reduce the budget of an individual hospital. That’s the region’s responsibility”.

But the memorandum, which was sent from Clarke-James, said that the budget received for fiscal year 2021-2022 was reduced significantly by 40 per cent, with budget specific for staff compensation and salary remaining the same.

The hospital directly serves at least 16 communities with an overall population of over 80,000, and their environs.

“I am asking each supervisor and manager to look at areas within their departments where efficiency can be improved to cut spending, thereby making funds available to allocate to areas where the budget has been cut,” said Clarke-James in the memorandum seen by the Sunday Observer.

She said areas to be adjusted at the Type B hospital include overtime for staff, meals and taxi allowances, and sessional duties being claimed.

The acting CEO said that the aforementioned areas have been overwhelming, and account for a large portion of the hospital’s salary budget.

She urged managers and supervisors to meet with staff to plan the way forward in light of the development.

“Plan how to utilise your human resources so patient care will not be compromised while you reduce expenditure,” said Clarke-James.

Added to that, she said that there must be strict monitoring and supervision of distribution and utilisation of goods and services as items are either expiring or are becoming sundry.

Travelling costs are also on the hospital’s chopping blocks as travel officers are being encouraged to carpool.

“Supervisors are also encouraged to monitor staff absenteeism and ensure documentation and record-keeping is up to date to prevent abuse within the system. It cannot be that officers who would have exhausted their leave allotment are calling in unable to work and are not required to compensate for the extra time taken,” said the acting CEO.

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