The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) is not in crisis, says Minister of Health John Boyce, who today announced that an urgent injection of $22 million would be made into the island’s primary healthcare institution in under two weeks.
This financial injection, he said, was a short to medium term remedy to the shortage of basic and essential health supplies currently affecting the state-run QEH.
The Health Minister was responding to a private member’s resolution brought by Opposition Shadow Minister of Health Dr Maria Agard on a “matter of urgent public importance”. He also spoke against of last evening’s emergency meeting of the Barbados Association of Medical Partitioners (BAMP) at which doctors described the situation at the QEH as critical.
However, today Boyce sought to assure that the situation was well in hand and that the wellbeing of the hospital and the public was of urgent importance to the Government.
He promised that some $2 million would be immediately pumped into the QEH, with another $20 million to be made available to the hospital over the next five to 10 days as part of a stabilising plan for the main hospital.
”I am comfortable that the short term arrangements that have been put in place will see that immediate turn around and I’m comfortable with the fact, and Barbadians need to be assured that with the injection. . . of some $20 million, the medium term has also been comfortably taken care of,” Boyce said as he made the announcement in Parliament today.
“I trust that some of the points which I have been able to put to Barbadians today have helped them to appreciate where our prioriies are, and the fact that recognising our priority, action has been taken to alleviate the situation and indeed to correct the situation,” he added.
Additionally, the Minister of Health implored members of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party not to seek to panic the public about the current shortage since he said this situation was not uncommon. Instead, he asked them to help the Government as it worked with the people of Barbados and the Ministry of Finance to make sure that the necessary resources were adequately available.
“It is not a political debate, it is about healthcare priority,” he said, adding that “ the worst thing we can do as a country today is seek to [suggest to] Barbadians or any visitors that there is some insurmountable crisis, far from it!
“I want to assure you that the shortages that were referred to in the statement from the medical doctors have been addressed and are being addressed and what has been agreed is that we deal with emergency and scheduled procedures.
“This is a normal practise whenever we have to deal with any kind of shortage. It occurs sometimes with the public being informed and many times it occurs without any words being whispered,” Boyce said.
However, in her contribution to the debate, Dr Agard, who is the Christ Church West MP, said the situation had reached crisis proportions and she called for the Minister of Health to be held accountable to the people of Barbados.
“The Minister of Health must stand transparent, accountable to the people of Barbados in addressing these issues to protect our people and return the operations of QEH to a state of normalcy,” she said.
“He cannot no longer continue in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, [to say] that quality healthcare at the QEH has not been compromised, that it is business as usual and that he and his administration are doing all [they] can to ensure the delivery of quality healthcare.
“We have heard it from doctors, we’ve heard it from nurses, we’ve heard it from patients, we’ve heard it from visitors to the hospital; there is a problem and the problem needs to be fixed,” she said.
“It is irresponsible, defective, even unpatriotic to continue to reduce the budget for healthcare . . . . We continue to underfund that which is most essential and I am saying to you that this level of irresponsibility cannot continue.
“Our nation is at risk. . . no one is safe unless the Government confesses to the state of deterioration at the QEH and commits diligently to improving the conditions there in,” Dr Agard added.