Chief Medical Officer Dr. Patrick Martin

By LR Liburd

The St. Kitts-Nevis Observer

 The Federation’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Patrick Martin, was unceremoniously sent on 17 months accumulated pre-retirement leave on Thursday (Jun. 16) and his services will be terminated on November 17, 2017.

When contacted by The Observer for verification, Dr. Martin stated that he had received a letter on the day in question indicating that he should proceed on pre-retirement leave the very next day.

“I have reached the mandatory age of retirement, which is 55. I am now 58 and yesterday at three o’clock in the afternoon I received a letter from the Chief Personnel Officer in the Human Resource Management Department of the Government stating that I should take vacation leave with immediate effect, to wit today [Jun. 17]. And at the end of the vacation leave arrangements will be made for my retirement from the Public Service.”

The Observer also sought a comment from Dr. Martin following a Facebook post by an ardent supporter of the tri-party Team Unity Government, who claimed that the CMO’s services were terminated because he had raised questions about a stem cell research project at the JNF General Hospital.

“There was an incident at JNF Hospital earlier this week which drew my attention, because the Medical Act which is responsible for registering and licencing doctors to practice in the Federation was violated by a doctor coming from outside the Federation, who was associated with the stem cell therapy entity that was operating at the JNF private ward earlier this week. So as Chief Medical Officer and Chair of the Medical Board, which registers and licences medical doctors, dentists, pharmacists et al, I was duty bound to ensure that the laws of the Federation were upheld. And that is what I did,” Dr. Martin said.

Commenting further on the letter, Dr. Martin emphatically declared that he had expected it and inferred that some individuals were not satisfied with the manner in which he went about his profession.

“The letter was expected…the writing was on the wall! I am aware that persons with whom I work were dissatisfied with the way in which I do my work, and so they have been attempting to have me sent on pre-retirement leave before.”

Dr. Martin indicated that since acquiring the mandatory age of requirement, he had written to the authorities on a number of occasions for extension of service.

“At age 55, I wrote to the Permanent Secretary indicating that I was 55 and that according to the rules I should report that I am 55 and that I am desirous of continuing. There was no reply. I did the same thing at 56, 57 and 58 but nothing changed in terms of my salary and allowances et cetera. The civil service rules require the officer to write, so I wrote. The civil service rules also require a response within a specific time…I think the time is seven days of each letter being received, but I got no response.”

He was also asked if there was any truth to the reports being bandied that the Minister of Health had not officially met with him since the Team Unity Administration took office in February 2015.

“That is not true!” he exclaimed. “I have had a very good relationship with the substantive Minister Hamilton…very good meaning. The relationship between the Minister of Health and the CMO is governed by the Public Health Act. The Public Health Act says that except where the Minister may provide, the CMO is authorised to carry out the functions of the Minister to safeguard the health of the population. So the Minister is named in the Act as being the Minister responsible for safeguarding the health of the nation and the CMO has the authority to do likewise, except where the Minister may provide. I have had a cordial, professional relationship with the substantive Minister of Health Eugene Hamilton.”

Informed sources told The Observer that Cabinet had given approval for the stem cell research project to be conducted by a private group at the hospital from Monday (Jun. 13), but the CMO who was not notified had intervened and brought it into contention.

The paediatrician has been performing the duties of CMO for some 12 years and this is not the first time he had challenged what he believes to be violations of the Medical Act.

In 2014 he was at the center of the conflict between the NIA and the Federal Government when the former had taken the decision not to provide manpower from the health sector to assist a foreign entity to conduct a renal screening exercise on Nevis.

According to the then Nevis Health Minister, the Hon. Mark Brantley, the island’s Cabinet had acted on Dr. Martin’s advice that data collected from renal screenings would not have been owned by the state but the foreign entity.

According to reports, Dr. Martin came in for a lot of flak from the Federal Government after admitting to the media that he had indeed given that advice.

At press time, there has been no official word from the Federal Government concerning the stem cell project. However, Health Minister Hamilton did confirm that Dr. Martin is on pre-retirement leave.