In spite of Opposition political blows and scarce funds in the public purse, Government is pressing ahead with plans to build a multimillion-dollar acute primary health care hospital to replace the 49-year-old Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Speaking to reporters after tours of the Winston Scott Polyclinic, the Albert Cecil Graeme Children’s Development Centre, the Vashti Inniss Empowerment Center and the Ladymeade Reference Unit Laboratory this afternoon, Minister of Health John Boyce did not rule out construction starting next year.
Pressed to say if next year was out of the question for construction to begin, Boyce replied that he could not say. However, he made it clear that the technical and logistical process had begun, with further discussion having been held on the project, as recent as yesterday.
“We set ourselves targets from month to month, the infrastructure committee [of Cabinet] will constantly be reviewing these targets and measuring how far we have got,” the minister added.
“I think that one important fact I want to emphasize is that we have taken the position as a Government that the Queen Elizabeth Hospital will be the . . . is the secondary health care institution in the country, so that all the time that we are looking at a new hospital, we understand fully, that the funding, the improvements and the equipment, infrastructure, staffing and ancialliary support must be maintained at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital so that our Barbados population can be properly cared for,” the Cabinet minister pointed out.
“The business of construction of a new hospital in Barbados is still engaging the Cabinet in a real way. As recently as yesterday, we have been considering our next step. A new hospital is sometime away, but the first step is to look at any site that may be selected, do the necessary research, physical examination, the whole question of an environmental impact study. These things take a lot of time,” asserted Boyce.
“We have to do the basic designs of the hospital, although there may have been before; these things keep changing very fast, and of course we need to, as a ministry, develop the health care model that we are going to take to a new institution; what we will offer, what is our mix between public and private, patient intervention, how we can best accommodate the two public and private offerings to best take care of the secondary health needs of Barbados, and at the same time maximize the opportunity for financial gain at a new facility,” stated the Government minister.
Boyce said these were some of the broad areas that would be examined first, but that Government would continue to push ahead with its plans to build the hospital, which one senior Government official had suggested that institutions of this type could cost as much as $500 million.
“We continue to roll out. Cabinet has given its approval to start that process in earnest in terms of examination and looking at the feasibility and also of course that cost, how we would fund that institution,” he stated.
In 2006 it was said that the Government was spending $112 million annually running the QEH. In 2008 the former Minister of Health under the now Opposition Barbados Labour Party, Dr Jerome Walcott, said that the current hospital should be replaced by a new state-of-the-art hospital complex. He classified it as nonsensical to spend over $400 million on an extension of the current facility, saying that it may cost upwards of $600 million in the end.
He went on to suggest the current QEH might be better off turned into a nursing home. Later in 2011 former Minister of Health in the present Government, Donville Inniss, gave the figure of around $800 million to build a new hospital for Barbados. It was stated the Government would need to review several factors including cost(s) and possible locations.
PAHO has rated the QEH as a Category B hospital facility.