The Opposition representative charged with keeping Government on its toes in the areas of health and social security thinks it is falling short in aspects of both portfolios.
Christ Church West Dr. Maria Agard, in her maiden speech in the House of Assembly during the Estimates Debate this week, said the funds allocated for the Ministry of Health, especially the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s budget, were inadequate.
The new parliamentarian also cautioned the Freundel Stuart Administration against relying too much on the National Insurance Scheme’s finances to fund its operations.
Agard was concerned that the QEH, the island’s premier health care institution, was not being properly supported, and the entire sector was being affected by it.
“We … have several challenges facing the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. It is my hope that the commitment to the construction of a new hospital becomes a priority of this administration, though of course nothing in the Estimates gave indication that work on this important entity will start within this financial year,” the Shadow Minister of Health and Social Security said.
“In the meantime health care professionals and support staff battle with outdated operational policies, procedures and manuals, unacceptable working conditions, gross inadequacy of financial resources for basic medical supplies.”
The Barbados Labour Party representative said a concern to many professionals was that the hospital’s existing services were underfunded “and that the hospital is not in a position to sustain the current services to which the population has become accustomed, and whilst the cost of services has increased and whilst demand has increased we see that the budget allocated to the QEH remains gross inadequate and that is unfortunate”.
“If my memory serves me correctly the (QEH) director indicated some time ago that no less than $200 million is required to service the QEH, there were given $190 million last year and suffered as a result of it and $190 million was unable to service the needs of the QEH, Mr. Speaker it is nigh impossible that $147 million will service the needs this year,” she told the Lower House.
“I am therefore asking the Honourable Minister of Health how does he intend to make up this blatant shortfall so that the services of health care to our people is not compromised.” In terms of the use of NIS funds, she said there was a need for vigilance to ensure that Government limited its borrowing from that agency.
“For whilst the fund currently remains strong, its long-term sustainability is closely linked to real economic growth, real growth in wages and a policy decision that affects the National Insurance income and expenditure,” she said. (SC)