Medpoint Clinic: Need for some lateral thinking 

By TP Saran

Almost everything that needs to be said about the acquisition of the Medpoint Clinic by the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life (MOH) has been said by all and sundry. From the abruptness – no surprise: a style known to nurses’s unions — of Minister Maya Hanoomanjee during her press briefing to the meanders of the tendering and acquiring process, practically all details have been laid bare. MOH maintains that all procedures have been followed to the letter; others question than even if that may be so, does legal mean moral? We know that it doesn’t, so nothing new there. Views have also been expressed as to whether we do really need ONE geriatric hospital, or for that matter whether we need a hospital for geriatrics rather than make provision for special care for this category of persons when they become ill from certain ailments peculiar to their age. This is a reasonable query raised by concerned citizens, taxpayers whose money is being committed, and no doubt in the name of transparency their voice must be heard by the deciders.

The point here, from all that has transpired about this issue, is that it appears that no real debate has been carried out about the need for a geriatric hospital before it was publicly announced, and according to our sources of information attempts at doing so were aborted by what is known in those circles as a top-down approach. This does not seem appropriate for such a crucial and highly complex matter which requires specific expertise and knowledge.

But one of the most unpalatable aspects is the imputation of motives. From the declarations that have been made, it is practically no secret to the Mauritian public that there is no love lost between Dr K Malhotra, owner of Medpoint Clinic, and his in-laws and the latter’s family. When Pravind Jugnauth avers that he has broken all contact with his brother-in-law since 1994, there is a priori no reason to doubt him. This is a family matter, and we must respect the privacy except to the extent that it impinges on the affairs of the state. Further, the Minister of Finance states that he possesses only 50 shares in the Medpoint Clinic and that if any dividends are paid to him, he will return the lot. Both of these are possible of verification, and that is the road that must be followed rather than continue unnecessary speculation.

Further, we refuse to align with the loud rhetoric and demagogy that hide the more substantive issues that need attention: is the acquisition a worthwhile one? And is there a better, alternative use to which the Medpoint Clinic could be put – from the point of view of optimizing resources?

We are reliably informed, by specialists who have practised there, that the Medpoint Clinic has all the necessary infrastructure to function as a small hospital. Of course, since it has not been fully operational for some time, there is some cleaning and upgrading to be done, but that is not rocket science. It has 75/80 rooms, operation theatres, a maternity block, consultation rooms, etc. From the official figures available for the new Jeetoo Hospital under construction, it would seem that the cost of construction per bed is about 5 million rupees. Translated, this means that buying a facility the size of Medpoint Clinic, would cost Rs 375 – 400 million. Even if one makes allowance for depreciation, say 50%, the price would still be about Rs 200 million. How does Rs 125 million look set against this?

Before Mr Berenger talks any more, would he check about Souillac Hospital, which was inaugurated with much fanfare on the eve of the 2000 elections, with him as outgoing Prime Minister? How much did it cost in the end, why, and what has been the outcome in terms of utilization of the hospital? Those who live in glass houses…

We would not go so far as ACIM has proposed, namely to freeze any further action at Medpoint Clinic until the matter has been fully investigated. That would be ‘Souillacking’ what can potentially be turned around for the good of Mauritian patients. What we mean is that the Prime Minister, no less, given that he is a medical man himself, should seek the advice of experienced practitioners in the country – no need to go hunting elsewhere – about how best Medpoint Clinic can be used without any further major expenditure. In this way, he can put an end to the controversies, and the country can get really going on course to the future rather than wallowing in this quagmire which is grist to the mill of rumour-mongers and those seeking resurrection on the back of suffering patients.

This, to our mind, will be the best way forward. 

Water situation: continuing crisis management

We all realize that there must be no euphoria about the slight improvement brought about by the rainfall we have had recently: we will need much more to fill our reservoirs. And therefore the cuts must, and will, continue. There is, and will be no magician in lieu of Harry Booluck, we had said as much earlier.

The reason we have reached this dire state as regards water in a country which receives more than its share of rains in any given year, is that there has been woeful disregard of the major policy decisions that have needed to be taken ever since we embarked on accelerated industrialization and developments of all sorts. We continued to blame management for decision failures in policy that, it seems, those who had substantive responsibility for such refused to take. Were they too busy pushing their own private agenda? If a Commission of Enquiry is required, it is not about the Medpoint Clinic, but about the glaring neglect of those who had power and authority to plan for our future water resources but woefully failed to do so.

Meetings upon meetings with different user stakeholders now is like après la mort la tisane. This is dust in the eye that will not bring any sustainable solution. We need a radical, global approach to this problem, engaging the best minds and, please, no partisanship. But we are still not in that mode, preferring, as usual, crisis management. That is, alas, not the way that will make the country advance at a pace commensurate with the needs of the time. Either we change course, or we are doomed. 

* Published in print edition on 4 February 2011

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