Leader of the Opposition Andrew Fahie has accused the government headed by Premier Dr D Orlando Smith of leaving the BVI Health Services Authority (BVIHSA) in an ‘unstable and compromised’ position, which has resulted in the state-owned body heading down ‘a slippery slope’.
He made the claim as salary negotiations reach fever pitch between the BVIHSA and members of its medical staff who are being represented by the BVI Medical Doctors Association.
In a letter to that Association, recently appointed Chief Executive Officer of the BVIHSA Paula Chester-Cumberbatch this month acknowledged that the BVIHSA had missed a deadline it had set to address issues raised by the medical practitioners.
She indicated that the deadline was missed because a scheduled January meeting was not held.
That crucial meeting was cancelled because the BVIHSA was left without a chairman; this after Premier Smith forced the then chairman Bishop John Cline to resign in early January – hours after Bishop Cline criticized him on public radio.
“Unfortunately, this [January 2017] meeting [of the BVIHSA Board] was cancelled due to the sudden and unexpected resignation of the chairman of the Board,” Chester-Cumberbatch told the Medical Doctors Association in a letter last week.
Although the government has not yet appointed a new chairman, Chester-Cumberbatch gave the assurance that a Board meeting aimed at ironing out the issues will be convened today, February 21.
“While the situation has not been fully resolved in terms of receipt of communication from the Ministry of Health on the appointment of a new chairman, the deputy-chairman [of the BVIHSA] has – with the support of the remaining Board members – convened the Board,” Chester-Cumberbatch further wrote.
Considering that the problems regarding the salary negotiations were compounded by the forced resignation of Bishop Cline as chairman of the BVIHSA, the Opposition leader again questioned if the premier acted legally when he requested the said resignation.
“I must add that I publicly questioned the legality of how the matter with the removal of the immediate past chairman of the BVIHSA Board was handled. As a result of the aforementioned, this current situation [regarding the salary dispute] – among others at the BVIHSA – has come at a time when the BVIHSA and by extension the territory is in an unstable and compromised position,” Fahie said.
“The laws are there to guide governments on the right way to carry out the affairs of the country. Failure of any government to act within the confines of the law puts that country down a slippery slope. Hence, the questionable actions of the government in the high-handed manner that the chairman of the BVIHSA was removed, has put the BVIHSA down a slippery slope, with the entire territory paying heavily at this time for the government’s actions.”
Fahie continued: “Unfortunately, these actions [by the government] were a result of their anger at someone (Bishop Cline) who respectfully exercised their democratic rights in voicing their opinion on a recent government’s decision. I might add, that it was an opinion that was contrary to that of the current government. Nevertheless, I pray that, as a people, as a government and as a territory, we immediately divorce ourselves from these types of high-handed behavior because wrong can never triumph right.”
Fahie also used the opportunity to renew his call for an end to victimization in the British Virgin Islands.
“Together we will rise when the democratic rights of persons are respected and accepted without victimization being their reward. So, although the BVIHSA has been handicapped seeing that the chairman was unceremoniously removed from the Board, it is important and urgent that the government now seek to step in to resolve the current issues that the BVIHSA faces in the best interest of all.”