Dr Keith Rowley

back on the job:Dr Keith Rowley

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is to chair his first Caricom meeting this morning since assuming the position of chairman.

Caricom will meet virtually.

The Prime Minister, who was discharged from Westshore Medical Private Hospital on Sunday following an angioplasty procedure, is also expected to chair the Cabinet meeting on Thursday.

The Caricom meeting is taking place at a time when renewed rumblings are developing in the Venezuela/Guyana border dispute.

On January 9, Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro vowed to reconquer the disputed Essequibo province.

According to reports, the key portion of Venezuela’s territorial claim lies offshore where ExxonMobil is developing a major oil field.

Guyana has huge oil field reserves but Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world.

Trinidad and Tobago’s delegation to the virtual Caricom meeting is expected to include Foreign Affairs and Caricom Minister Dr Amery Browne.

The Caricom meeting was scheduled before the escalation of tensions between Guyana and Venezuela.

The last official statement on the Prime Minister’s health was made on Sunday which announced that the Prime Minister had been discharged, having been given the “all-clear” by his doctors to go home and that he was “resting comfortably” at the official residence.

The statement made no announcement of the Prime Minister’s work schedule and the Government issued no statement yesterday.

One of the questions posed by some analysts yesterday was whether there should have been an acting prime minister.

Sources however said the need for such an appointment did not arise as the Prime Minister was conscious throughout the angioplasty procedure.

A coronary angioplasty is performed using local anaesthetic, which means that the patient is awake while the procedure is carried out.

A thin flexible tube called a catheter is inserted into one of the arteries through an incision in the groin, wrist or arm.

There has been only one person who acted as Prime Minister in the Rowley Government and that is Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

Rowley was hospitalised last Friday evening at Westshore after experiencing “discomfort”.

After tests were carried out he underwent an angiogram and then angioplasty.

Controversial FB post

Meanwhile, Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Brian Manning, says Prime Ministers and other public figures deserve their privacy. especially with regard to their medical care.

Manning (B) is the son of late former prime minister Patrick Manning who had sought medical treatment abroad while in office.

Speaking to TV6 in the wake of a technician being ordered off the job pending an investigation following a Facebook post on Rowley’s care at Westshore, Manning said it’s about privacy of medical records, not confidence in the public health sector.

“The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, he is a person, he has a family and he deserves the kind of privacy that anyone would expect going through any kind of health care issue,” Manning said.

In the post shortly after Rowley was admitted, the technician commented online that he had to return to work at Westshore.

The post read, “Imagine while crawling in traffic on my way home from work I had to do an about turn and head back to the hospital to look after him...”

Another commenter said had it been him, he would have “sabotaged” his own car so he could not return to work.

The technician in response, dismissed this, saying “na. I have to look after everyone equally. I am not a politician.”

Another commenter then asked how “he” was feeling in a reference to the Prime Minister.

The technician said he was “pain-free” when he left work.

A screenshot of the exchange was captured and shared on social media, followed by online criticism from commentators.

Transcending politics

On Sunday, Manning issued a public post on Facebook in reference to a newspaper article about WestShore having launched a probe into the Facebook post by the cardiac technologist identified as an employee of Cardiovascular Associates Ltd (ACI) and a part-time independent contractor for ACI.

Manning commented: “This is why politicians seek medical treatment abroad. A lack of professionalism.”

His comment elicited reaction in support of and against his position on the matter.

“There are some issues that should transcend politics. The Prime Minister is a human being first of all. Whether it is him, whether it is Leader of the Opposition, where it is whoever...they have a right to privacy and they have a right to be respected...especially when they are vulnerable and may be in need of health care,” Manning said.

“I was around when my father had to seek medical treatment abroad because of various issues, he had a heart issue, he had to have several valves replaced.

“He also had to have a kidney removed and, you know, a lot of people speculated and said that he didn’t use the public sector because he didn’t, you know, trust the quality of health care that was being provided.

“That was never the case. My father would generally use the public health care sector throughout his life,” he said.

Manning said he has also used the public health care sector his entire life.

“I have been to a private health care institution maybe once in my life and that was because of a car accident I was involved in. I had an injured arm and it was the only thing that was available at that time.

“I would generally use Port of Spain Hospital or San Fernando General Hospital and the major issue was never the quality of health care that was being offered. It was really having people respect your privacy.”

Westshore Medical, a private hospital, said all staff members and independent contractors are required to sign agreements to keep patient information in the strictest confidence.

“It has nothing to do with funding because this was a private institution and they still violated his privacy.

“Whether it was the public sector or private sector, it is our culture as a people and we need to be more professional in the way we do things and also be more respectful of other people’s lives,” Manning said, adding that he empathises with Rowley and his family and wishes him and his family well during what is a challenging period.

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