HEALTH AND SAFETY, ENVIRONMENT AND STANDARDS

October 28th, 2022


HEALTH

A sector dependent on the economy

To introduce technology and the IT required, we need to get a massive amount of training and the psychological adjustment in our human resource to ensure success.

Dr. Kongshiek Achong Low

INTERVIEW

Dr. Kongsheik Achong Low
Executive Chairman, Medcorp Limited

T&T’s health sector has seen the relaxation of many pandemic restrictions in the past year. Covid-19 PCR or lab acquired antigen test results are no longer required for entry into the country and the mask mandate came to an end. In June 2022, Cabinet approved the addition of the Monkeypox Virus to the list of dangerous infectious disease in T&T and while there are no cases of the virus in the country, to the time of publishing, the sector remains prepared to deal with it.

What will the health sector face in 2023? According to Dr. Kongsheik Achong Low, Executive Chairman of Medcorp Ltd, the challenges faced are not unique just to the current time that we exist. While some of the challenges he mentioned are as a result of the pandemic, others are those that are faced throughout. “The challenges are usually to do with the delivery of quality healthcare and healthcare of a standard, along with the complexity of the type of healthcare we deliver (in terms of what people have as their expectation).” He further explained, “Our limitations have to do with whatever the economy will present to us in terms of the financial ability that we have for improving equipment and putting systems in place. Those things take a lot of time and money. It also has to do with the quality of staff and their ability to learn and understand what is being done.”

What about technology and its role? “You have to embrace technology,” said the doctor. “In running the business and in doing a more complicated type of medical procedure, technology makes things more efficient and therefore “easier”. Eventually, if the technology is installed and is working well, it will make things less expensive.” He added, “But to introduce technology and the IT that is required, we need to get a massive amount of training and the psychological adjustment in our human resource to ensure success. The Government has to train people into that space. See it is an investment.”

Can the medical industry attract investors and generate forex? Medical Tourism. The doctor explained, however, that the private sector cannot do this on its own. “The Government has to facilitate the private sector so that we can compete with other countries on price for procedures” he said. “People can go to other countries and have procedures done at a lesser cost. That is because, for instance in Chile, the government went on a thrust towards trying to generate forex and they essentially gave complete concessions to the hospital industry. That is the only way we can hope to really compete on price.”

Another way to generate forex in the long term? The service attitude. “We have to get our human resource into the right type of psychological and mental mode. It really would help if people involved in hospitality training could assist. I think that is where the Government can help by having free hospitality training for anyone.”

What is his projected outlook? “From where I am seeing it, this sector is dependent on the economy in the country because obviously, fewer patients, less ability to generate funds. One of the things we need, not just for this sector but for every sector in the country is the removal of bureaucracy and red tape involved in doing business in T&T.”

ENVIRONMENT

Sustainability and Conservation

Nadra Nathai-Gyan

INTERVIEW

Nadra Nathai-Gyan
Chairman, Environmental Management Authority (EMA)

There is no doubt that our environment is rapidly changing but in the midst of these changes, many organisations and the Government are both putting things in place to help slow such changes. The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) noted the continued development of national projects toward environmental sustainability and conservation, many of which are driven by the Green Fund or through funding from the United Nations Global Environment Facility (GEF). An official at the Authority said, “Recently, we have noticed the emergence of public private partnerships and private sector involvement in environmental projects, which is very heartening.” 

Recent national milestones for the EMA include:

  1. The Waste Management Rules, 2021 (WMR), and the Waste Management (Fees) Regulations (WMFR) 2021. The objective is, through a permitting regime, to regulate activities related to the management of waste. \

  1. T&T ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2018. Its aim is to keep global warming to well under 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To track the measures implemented to reduce GHG emissions, the principle of measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) was introduced. The system is the first to be created in the Caribbean region. The EMA is responsible for the implementation of the MRV and looks forward to private sector participation.

Questioned as to what can be done to attract investors/generate forex, the Authority stated, “The move toward the circular economy must be accompanied by incentives to attract investors. There is an urgent need to transition from the traditional linear economic model (take-make-dispose) and adopt widely accepted sustainable alternatives such as the waste hierarchy and circular economy approaches (World Bank, 2022). Businesses are interested but need support from the Government to make the necessary investments. Countries must continue to seek opportunities to commercialise waste and by-products through waste prevention, reuse, recycling, and recovery before disposal. This will serve to close the loop between extraction, manufacturing, and disposal by advocating for designing products to reduce waste, using products and materials for as long as possible, and recycling materials from end-of-life products back into the economy. This can have a major impact on waste and pollution reduction, while generating green jobs. Other opportunities exist in the Blue Economy to generate tourism opportunities through niche markets. One recent example is where a Tobago boat operator achieved the international Blue Flag award which is a renowned environmental award and indicative that this operator has complied with standards pertaining to environmental management, environmental education and information, safety and services, social responsibility and responsible operation around wildlife.”

Can Government and/or a private sector partnership contribute to the success of the industry? “The support of the private sector is critical,” said the official. “The EMA’s iCARE project has been changing the national landscape on recycling and sustainable consumption. Its major goal is to transition to islandwide initiatives, led by enterprising entities and catering for a diversity of recyclables. Yes, policy and legislation are critical.” 

 The EMA commented on technology. “The impact of technology is both positive and negative on environmental matters. While the positive impacts of technology are acknowledged, we must admit that technology has caused many environmental and social problems – e-waste which is a growing concern worldwide. The first issue is that “many electronic devices contain hazardous materials that can leach into the environment as their casings degrade in landfills where many forms of consumer electronic waste currently ends up. Another reason for the urgent need for responsible recycling is that many components are becoming increasingly scarce or are dangerous to source globally” – BCRC-Caribbean.  Therefore, as the world places greater emphasis on technological advancement, e-waste is of growing concern.” 

But what are the advantages? “The MRV System includes the collection, analysis and transparent reporting of accurate and reliable information and data on GHG emissions, efforts to mitigate them and resources/support devoted to enabling these efforts. Technology is the backbone of this system. UNEP advises that countries must harness the digital revolution to drive environmental sustainability using a combination of high- and low-tech solutions. The key, however, is to ensure that this technology is compatible with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and aligns with T&T’s National Environmental Policy; therefore, a balance must be struck.” 

What about people? What role do they play? Nadra Nathai-Gyan, Chairman, EMA said, “We need all hands-on deck since, working collaboratively, we can do more to conserve the environment for current and future generations, therefore, personal responsibility is vital.” “Get involved, reduce your carbon footprint and be the change you want to see in the environment.”

Questioned on the EMA’s projected outlook for the sector the Authority said: “As a ratified signatory to the Paris Agreement, we anticipate a greater focus on climate mitigation strategies in accordance with the NDCs. The MRV is one example of T&T’s commitment and we look forward to private sector participation. We hope to see continued private sector led involvement in initiatives that drive recycling. We hope to see initiatives in the 2023 budget to encourage greater private sector participation in the greening of the economy.”


Article by: Bavina Sookdeo

×