Even as the Barbados Government seeks to control spending to help close a burdensome fiscal deficit, Minister of Health Donville Inniss has given notice of his intention to return to Parliament shortly for an additional $50 million for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and his ministry.
Addressing the opening of a two-day Diabetes Global Village Expo this morning at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Inniss expressed dismay that the increase in spending on health care, may be attributed to many people’s reluctance to get early medical attention.
He was particularly upset that men in this country appeared not be taking their health seriously, noting that the number of stroke victims with which the ministry was confronted daily, was unacceptable.
“We see so many Barbadian families that are put into financial ruin because individuals did not take the time out to go and check their blood sugar level; and we face it every day in the Ministry of Health. We cannot keep asking tax payers to spend more money on health care in this country,” the minister insisted.
“I am going to have to go to Parliament,” Inniss informed, “in a few weeks and ask the Parliament to vote for a couple million dollars more for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital alone, and the Ministry of Health, and it’s not going to be chump change. We believe we probably will need somewhere north of $50 million more for this financial year alone. That is not a little bit of money.
“But we can’t keep asking for more and more, we can’t keep demanding more and more. We can’t tax anymore, quite frankly in some of these areas. So we therefore have to do a push back, and within the ministry itself, we are working assiduously to eliminate a lot of the duplication and wastage,” Inniss observed.
For instance, he revealed, Barbados Drug Service reforms had saved taxpayers almost $30 million; and all the other changes being made throughout the ministry in terms of policies and programmes, were designed to contain the spiralling costs of health care without compromising delivery.
However, he suggested that Barbadians needed to do more.
“Take, for example, dialysis. The message goes forth. I mean, we spend so much money on education in this society and yet still people don’t seem to understand these basic points. The amount of money that we have to spend, when you fail to take the advice of your health care professional; end up with diabetes, end up with end stage renal failure, and then you are on dialysis,” the minister added.
Inniss felt that because many Barbadians were not given an invoice and told if they did not pay they would be denied the service, they had probably become oblivious of the costs attached to health care.
He lamented that dialysis was now costing the Government more than $4,000 per person per month.
“That,” the minister said, “is not a little bit of money. There’re not many Barbadians that make $4,000 a month in income. But we are spending on over 200 patients alone, $4,000 per person per month. We outsource dialysis services to a private facility, because the QEH can’t handle the load. That is costing taxpayers $1.2 million per year.”
Inniss disclosed that what it was costing Government to treat 200 dialysis patients, it is costing the same to treat 6,527 individuals in the general health care system. (EJ)