An Opposition Member of Parliament is warning Government against implementing any new fees at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).
Dwight Sutherland, the parliamentary representative for St George South, said such a move would be a backward step and would worsen conditions for residents who are already finding it difficult to make ends meet.
“The timing is not right. We have economic challenges. People are being sent home . . . We see the poverty line has increased. We have more people living below the [poverty line] than in previous years and I am saying we need to [take a second] look at how we introduce these fees because the poor people of St George South and also other citizens cannot afford to pay the tuition fees and they cannot afford to pay the QEH,” said the MP, who held a health fair for residents in his constituency this weekend.
Last month, at the Democratic Labour Party’s 59th Annual Conference, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart gave notice of an impending change in policy at the QEH to ensure that people who can afford to pay, do so.
Then last week, president of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners Dr Carlos Chase proposed that Barbadian workers contribute to a Health and Education Security (HES) Fund to put an estimated $120 million into Government’s coffers annually to help pay for health care.
But Sutherland insisted that now is not the time to impose any additional expenses for people seeking care at QEH, adding that that even if that was done at a later date, it should come only after careful consideration.
“For the Government to introduce fees now at the QEH is putting another burden on the poor people of this country because those are the people who will be affected mostly,” he argued.
“I don’t see why we can’t have the system whereby we determine the persons below the [poverty line] and we have the services free for them. It’s not a secret in this country that people are suffering and you will see a lot more sickness. I think it is a backward step at this stage in our development. We need to get the economic issues solved first, return growth to this country and then we can look at introducing fees. Until then, we can’t,” the MP added.
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