I rise to speak on behalf of the sick and infirm, those who do not have a voice or wherewithal to plead their own cases. I speak on behalf of families who have lost their loved ones under questionable circumstances and those who now suffer the ordeal of seeking care, hoping and praying . . . to the God that heals; hoping that He would take control and bring them out safely. –– Shadow Minister of Health Dr Maria Agard in the House of Assembly on Tuesday as she spoke to the critical shortage of medical supplies at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Quite clearly, it cannot continue to be business as usual at our premier Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH). Not that we have not said this before. Not that there were not prior lamentations of doctors and other caregivers over this stunning and deadening issue of lack that brought us a consequence of “urgent” and “emergency” medical procedures only!
It is that the refrains of lamentation have not sufficiently triggered the crucial reform of thinking as it relates to our national health care policy and its surer execution. It is as if the practice be: when and if a problem arises, we will just fix it.
And so it may not be unduly harsh when Dr Agard accuses the Government and Minister of Health of failing to take charge and bring this recurring and vexing incident to “an effective, decisive and favourable resolution”. Sadly, the lack of reformist thinking would have our minister Mr John Boyce wistfully –– ironically –– advising us not to panic.
We are grateful for the $2 million made immediately available to the hospital, and hopeful about the other $20 million to be provided in a couple of days, but this plaster-on-the-sore approach to the QEH’s challenges is unsustainable and demotivating to our professional caregivers, and presents an unnecessary additional ailment –– inflicted upon those already seeking medical care for prediagnosed cases.
Mr Boyce’s expressed concern in Parliament about the careful management of resources and the avoidance of wastage is not without merit; but Government too needs to play its part in this exercise.
Not very many years back, the QEH’s chief executive officer Dr Dexter James was markedly worried about the shrinking Government budget and donor aid to which the hospital was accustomed, particularly when juxtaposed against the hospital’s recurring and skyrocketing expenditure. The CEO’s prognostication was discomforting then, and no less so now.
Unless a more prudent approach to financing of our health care is taken, we run the risk of eroding all the gains made in the past, and being forced to scale down services –– to those “urgent” and of “emergency” –– putting the “regular” sick, especially those among our senior population, at risk.
Staring us in the face is the unwell feature of not being able to boast much longer of free national health care for all, when you add the recently new development of older patients needing much more intensive care, and machines becoming obsolete and in need of replacement.
And we are not unmindful that some equipment may no longer be maintainable by a supplier because it has been upgraded –– the vagaries of modern technology.
The QEH’s problems haven’t just begun; they are not peculiar to this present Government; but they have become more complex. The Barbados Labour Party Opposition has come with the notion of putting the heads of both sides together for a lasting health solution. The ball may be said to be in the Government’s court.
We suggest we can all put our hands to the plough –– or is it the medicine cabinet? Maybe the very public whom the Queen Elizabeth Hospital has served well in the past can help.
Maybe we of the public can supplement the giant benefactors donating funds for the purchases of essential pieces of equipment and for care, through our community groups, societal gatherings, fund-raising clubs and such, exhibiting and delivering charity to and securing caregiving for the ordinary Barbadian –– to and for the common good!
As we said earlier, we do need a reformation in thinking on our national health care. We cannot continue to take its sustainability for granted. It takes millions a month to underwrite this care; and this demands we all –– if we can or would –– contribute to the larger good the hospital and its doctors
and nurses do.
Perhaps, the greatest contribution some of us will make is leading and living a more healthy lifestyle ourselves. Much of our health care dollars is spent on patients with chronic conditions, which may have been prevented.
These ailments need not mushroom into crises for families and close friends –– and a nation in economic crisis.
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