Eminent medical practitioner Sir Errol “Mickey” Walrond has come out against any move to privatize health care in Barbados, saying it would erode all the public advances made during the past 50 years.
The professor emeritus of the University of the West Indies and honourary consultant to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital contended Wednesday night that making health care private would result in only a few Barbadians getting access to good service, while the majority would fall back to harbouring multiple curable illnesses that plagued this country half a century ago.
Sir Errol was part of a Barbados Museum and Historical Society-sponsored panel discussion on the topic “Health for all?”
He called, instead, for emphasis to be placed on maintenance of the current public health care system, and attention given to prevention and lifestyle changes as the way forward.
“There has been a rise in expensive health care and expectations from that. Medicine as a business is being encouraged,” the former top QEH surgeon said.
“And if you ever copy that system, you would realize that not many of you in this room can afford individually to have a major health care problem. You have medical insurance and that, as a business, has to profit but excluding people at risk.”
Other participants in the panel discussion were Chief Medical Officer Dr Joy St John and President of the Barbados Association of Retired Persons (BARP) Ed Bushell.
Sir Errol, who also practised in Jamaica and England after qualifying as a surgeon in the United Kingdom 55 years ago, added: “The move to further privatisation of health care provision in Barbados will rapidly reverse the 70 years of policy of provision for and improvement of health services for all Barbadians. It will leave good care for the few.”
The panel discussion took place against a backdrop of shortages of supplies at state health care facilities with the troubles at the QEH most publicized. Meanwhile, public health officials talk about an increase in non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, among Barbadians.
Sir Errol said: “The paradigm of looking at health in this country needs to be shifted to, whether it is prepaid or not, health maintenance. We have to start preventing the ravages of chronic diseases which people are talking about”.
He added: “We have to look after our elderly population, whether it is through tax relief, or allowance, or day care”.
Sir Errol called for real promotion of “public health, which I think has done so much for this country in relation to the transmittable diseases to the lifestyle . . . and not just talking about it.
“Public activity facilities in communities and the beaches need to be provided and built for the use of all ages for both day and night time activity,” he said.
Sir Errol added that the long-term effect of promoting healthy lifestyle practices “is tantamount to the policy 70 years ago (of) providing water in homes”.
“Policyholders have to bite the bullet in enhancing the modern public health,” he said.