Minister of Health Donville Inniss is on a mission to reduce wastage in his ministry.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of Barbados’ newest medical facility, the Coverley Medical Centre, last Friday, November 2 he said his ministry strived to improve processes and to contain unit costs throughout the health system. One of the areas they seriously dealt with was duplication and wastage, resulting in a cost reduction of almost $30 million.
Inniss said that over the years Barbados had evolved into a society which seemed to believe that the state can and must provide all services and goods to all peoples at all times. However, he further said that if left unchecked, it could create a serious social and economic dislocation adding that health care was one such area where more and more demands of state owned facilities were added without the provision of adequate resources.
“Even as the Health Ministry is preparing to ask for additional funds to take us through this financial year, we continue to forge ahead with our preventative strategies. Our educational programmes are starting to show success… The easy way out has always been to just ask for a few million dollars more.
“Well, there is always a point at which there will be a revolt when one realises that pot of gold is not always full. The Ministry of Health will continue to dissect each department under its management with a view of eliminating the inefficiencies and working towards building more viable units. This will take some time as we are speaking here of a cultural change existing within a slow moving public service. These challenges are system wide and not entirely personnel related in nature.
“As we work on changing the culture and business model, one must be cognizant of the fact that our success in health care reforms will rest heavily on bringing clarity to the basket of health services which the state can reasonably supply at a point in time and addressing hitherto, the cost to finance said services in a sustainable manner.
“Simply put, we must know what services the state should be and can realistically provide, at what cost and the source of funding. At this point in time, I am not overly concerned that there will be any additional financial burdens to be borne by taxpayers in this regard. If there is doubt as to what services the state provides, then there will be more doubt about sustainable financing of such.
“The Ministry of Health is now beginning to function in a manner where we are beginning to understand the unit cost of the services we provide. With this kind of information, we are better able to make informed decisions in respect of cost reduction strategies without compromising on the delivery of care,” he said.
The minister added the ministry would strive to become more efficient and better use the monies provided to it was by outsourcing some of its services, including diagnostic radiology services. He said that with estimated demands for it at the primary care level being 3,200 per year, to provide the service in-house would cost approximately $3 million in the first year with recurring costs of approximately $700,000 per year. Noting that the Queen Elizabeth Hospital did not have the facilities to expand to accommodate the demand in a timely manner and the QEH costs were considerably higher than the public sector. (KC)