The Opposition spokeswoman on health has raised the alarm over what she claims is an out-of-stock drug list circulating within the state-run Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) that could impact treatment of some of the most serious diseases in the country.
Speaking this afternoon in the House of Assembly on the Estimates vote of $337 million for the Ministy of Health, Dr Maria Agard, who is a dentist, said the list contains over 76 drugs.
“I am not going to be unreasonable, because I am part of the health industry and I know that some things arise. However, when you choose to cut the vote to pharmaceuticals by $3 million, you have to ensure that people who need critical drugs, are not disadvantaged,” Agard reasoned.
”Why is it today that we don’t have Micardis at the hospital? Out of stock . . . withheld for money. Nasonex, Cataflam, witheld for money; important drugs; drugs that service people with heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, epilepsy, cancer . . . . These drugs today are being witheld for money,” the opposition member informed Parliament.
“I don’t want to be nit-picking about a million here or a million dollars there, but I certainly want to know, that when we apply our cuts, that we ensure that the vital operations are not in anyway compromised; and today we cannot say for certain that that has been the case,” she stated.
Agard called, too, for an assurance from the Government, that the country can and should be adopting international rules for its application of services.
“For example, sanitation and sterilization – that is a cause for concern. [And] I just want to caution the Minister that certainly, we should be aiming to reduce any incidence of secondary infection as a result of the lapse of our sanitation and our sterilization,” she asserted.
She agreed with Minister Boyce that attention must be given to management of the health services.
“We have to start the care of our people from childhood. We cannot attempt to manage NCDs [non-communicable diseases] in old age. There are too many people registered in Barbados with one condition or the other. And certainly, one in ten, suffering from either hypertension, diabetes or obesity. It is not necessarily a figure, that we can be proud of,” lamented the Opposition MP.
She believes the health linkages should therefore be extended to essential services such as education and agriculture.
“The Government can take a very bold and productive step with respect to lifestyle changes, because we can appreciate that an individual may not necessarily have the wherewithal, may not be in a position to manage their entire lifestyle,” continued Agard.
“Have we considered,” she asked, “placing levies on patently unhealthy foods, as we do for tobacco for example, to ensure that we shield our population, that we help our population to make certain right choices. Certainly we can do that.”
In defence of the drug situation at the QEH of which Agard spoke earlier, Health Minister of Health John Boyce while admitting there may be a shortage “from time to time of one drug or the other”, said a very careful selection of the regime of available drugs was done to ensure that patients had a choice.