It will take much more than a $22 million injection to cure the ills at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
In fact, former Minister of Health Donville Inniss said today the solution was to develop a new model for financing healthcare in Barbados.
He was at the time making his contribution to the debate on a resolution brought by the Opposition Barbados Labour Party to address what it described as a crisis at the state-run hospital.
Inniss, who is the current Minister of Industry, noted that over the next few days both Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler and Minister of Health John Boyce would be looking to direct another $15 to $20 million into the half a century old facility, but he asked what was the strategy after that money was paid.
”[The QEH] is going to pay down suppliers, it is going to quell a lot of the noise now, you are not going to hear from BAMP again but my fear is in another three to six months it may raise its ugly head again. Then we are back to square one.
“This is not to my mind acceptable. This is the crux of what we really have today: How do we make the Queen Elizabeth Hospital into a situation where a lot of these issues we are addressing here today go away?”
While reaffirming that the Government will not runaway from its responsibility, Inniss admitted that today’s resolution showed that there were still many issues to be addressed, not solely at the QEH but within the island’s healthcare system on a whole.
His recommendation for the way forward was to look at a new model for financing healthcare in Barbados since, in his estimation, “this situation where you are constantly at the mercy of the Treasury” was unsustainable.
”When we keep pulling the Queen Elizabeth Hospital out and treating it so unique and different then we sometimes forget to look at the rest of the public healthcare system and how our inaction is impacting upon that tertiary institution.
“There are times when you have allocated let’s say $40 million for a quarter for the QEH, it has been approved but then because of cash-flow challenges within the Treasurey they may only get $15 million but the hospital still has its suppliers to pay.
“One of the first orders to address, in a bi–partisan way, is the financial model for healthcare in Barbados,” Inniss stressed, as he suggested the finances be collected through direct taxation or a national insurance programme.
In terms of the national insurance scheme, he proposed that all working Barbadians make a contribution per month.
“ . . . but I must say who is the collector for such levy must be administered in such a way that it finds it way directly to the hospital.
“One of the challenges is that you can’t put it in a consolidated fund because the Minister of Finance and his staff may have for example a little crisis in January where he would have to pay $30 million for a loan that was used to build a prison.
“If you have a financing mechanism that allows that money to reach the QEH or to reach the public healthcare system on a whole, it helps. And I think that this is, to my mind, the first order of business. Barbados needs a new model to finance healthcare in this country,” he reiterated.