The number of Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s board of directors is being increased from 13 to 15, making provision for formal representation by the labour sector for the first time.
Provision for the change has been made in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (Amendment) Bill 2022 debated and passed in the House of Assembly during a brief sitting today. The amendment also gives the Minister of Health and Wellness the authority to make certain administrative changes without having to go to Parliament.
In introducing the amendments, Minister of Health and Wellness Ian Gooding-Edghill contended it was important to give labour a voice on the board.
He pointed out this was a “glaring omission” in the previous Queen Elizabeth Hospital Act, and said even though there was a representative of human resources and industrial relations included in board membership, the legislation did not speak specifically to a labour representative.
“This Bill now sets out to do so and, in addition to that, giving labour a voice on the board of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital,” Gooding-Edghill said.
He also pointed out that the amendment would validate the actions taken by the board of the QEH and ensure that the body had “the requisite skills that are necessary to help us advance the cause of the board”.
In his contribution to the debate, Member of Parliament for Christ Church Wilfred Abrahams East supported the bill and gave a rationale for the changes.
He said: “The fact that we had to come to Parliament to increase the number of the members of the board by two, does not make sense. This is something that is relatively administrative; it is something that is not contentious, there is a good reason for doing it.
“For administrative things like this, there ought to be no need for the changes to be made at the level of Parliament. Those administrative type things can now be done by order of the minister as opposed to coming to Parliament. Going forward, this can now be done by the Minister, without having to comeback to Parliament.”
However, he pointed out Parliament “still retains the oversight because it can be challenged within a certain time frame and corrected if something is found to be wrong”.
While also declaring her support for the amended legislation, Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Wellness with responsibility for the QEH, Dr Sonia Browne gave “true credit and thanks” to the previous QEH board, noting much of the work it had done was in evidence.
Browne said she anticipated “several changes” would be coming to the hospital with respect to labour, hence the wisdom of that kind of board representation.
“The public and Members of Parliament are well aware of the issues that we have been having within the last few years at the hospital,” Browne said.
She added that the institution had “come from basically the number one in the Eastern Caribbean to way below that”. (GC)