By Marion Ali
The Board of the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, KHMH, has decided that it will not grant a request made by its Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Gary Longsworth, to extend his contract for another year after it expires in October this year.
In an interview with The Reporter this week, KHMH Chair, Chandra Nisbet Cansino, said that the decision came right in the middle of an investigation commissioned by the Board of the KHMH over the established procedures that were reportedly not met in the purchasing of two pieces of x-ray equipment for the hospital late last year.
Cansino said, “Some things were brought to our attention regarding invoices not being put on the file…We are basing our concerns from the files that are available to us.
“The Board decided to investigate the entire situation…we have a lot of questions and a lot of concerns and that is why we are commissioning an audit because we did do some internal investigations.”
Cansino did add, however, that the hospital is not accusing Longsworth with any wrongdoing.
“Persons on this current board think that it is time to explore the [other] available options that might be out there and look at it from a new perspective. We’re not accusing Dr. Longsworth of any wrong-doing.”
The purchases of the two pieces of equipment were made specifically by the Finance Department, headed at the time by Carlos Perrera, who left the institution two weeks ago. Perrera was one of the subjects of the 2007 Commission of Inquiry into the hospital’s procurement procedures.
The two pieces of equipment arrived in the country about two months ago, after a supplier in Belize procured them, Cansino said.
She added that the audit will look at specific things like the cost of the machines, what the invoice shows and ensuring that the hospital got value for money.
One of the machines, a portable x-ray unit, carried a price tag of $110,000 while the other costs $485,000.
The irregularity over the procurement of the equipment is not the only issue that the KHMH is investigating. Cansino says that since the end of May, which is around the time the machines arrived, the hospital suddenly started to experience a cash-flow problem, one that will remain until at least the end of this year.
She said that it was CEO Longsworth who brought it to the Board’s attention “that the hospital wasn’t going to be able to meet the payroll…and the indication at the time was that the hospital’s wage bill was excessively high.”
The Board made a request to the Ministry of Finance, with the support of the Ministry of Health for additional funds, that were approved. This means that each month for the rest of this fiscal year, the Ministry of Finance will provide another $200,000 to the hospital, in addition to the existing subvention the ministry already provides to KHMHA.
Cansino said that cutting costs is hard to do to in order to balance off the finances because “when you’re in the business of saving lives and making people well it’s very difficult to compromise in areas of supplies and availability of resources when it comes to the actual work of the hospital.”
She also added that since the deaths of the neonates in May of 2013, the KHMH saw a significant increase in expenditures per month to be compliant with the recommendations of the Pan American Health Organisation.
CEO Longsworth had two contract periods and one extension of a year. That extension is what will end on October. The board had decided, according to Cansino, upon extension of his contract that the post should be advertised by the end of that extension, which she says will happen as October nears. Longsworth, she said, was informed that he is welcome to apply for the post.