“If a country is bankrupt how can we continue to provide freeness all around?”
That’s the question retired Professor of Medicine and former Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus, Sir Henry Fraser believes Barbadians seriously need to ponder in the face of ongoing debate over whether they should be made to pay for health care and education services.
Sir Henry, who has retired from the medical profession after serving for almost five decades, is all for Barbadians paying for their health care.
He also told Barbados TODAY it was about time the entire system was “rethought and revamped”.
“You have to pay for it one way or the other. We are not having that discussion. There needs to be a greater deal of that public discussion, which the university is trying to set in train with the Barbados Museum in the recent lecture series on the development of health care in Barbados,” he said.
The professor emeritus of the UWI said while he was ready and willing to lend his expertise to the health care system, so far he had not been invited to any such discussions or planning sessions.
“I certainly haven’t been invited to get involved in these discussions but health care needs to be discussed,” he said, noting that in his years of practice he had accumulated “a few ideas about how medicine has and should and can operate”.
In recent times Government has hinted that Barbadians may have to start paying for public health care services.
The Government has also suggested that there will be privatization of some aspects of the system.
However, with the National Budget now mere weeks away on June 15, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has already given the assurance that the Freundel Stuart administration would not be rushing ahead with any changes to the health system.
And earlier this month, eminent medical practitioner Sir Errol Walrond said he was against any move to privatize health care in Barbados.
Sir Errol warned that any such move would erode all the public advances made during the past 50 years, adding that what was needed instead was more 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.
However, Sir Henry, who also supports the recent move by Government to have Barbadians pay their tuition at the UWI, was firmly of the view that “we are not having enough of that serious sit down discussion between the relevant parties” on the matter of health care.
“That discussion is urgently needed,” the independent Senator stressed, adding that he had been saying so in the Upper Chamber for a while now.
As to the issue of financing of education, Sir Henry said that “a significant part” of it could be done through loans, pointing out that “if a country is bankrupt how can we continue to provide freeness all around?”
Since the implementation of tuition fees for Barbadians at the UWI last year, there has been an outcry in certain quarters.
However, Sir Henry said: “We sometimes live in an isolated cocoon in Barbados and we often act as if Barbados was the only world.
“Bishop [John] Mitchinson some 150 years ago offended Barbadians by saying that, ‘Barbadians were like the white snails in Alice in Wonderland living under the stones and thinking that was the entire world’,” he said.
“We are like that because all over the western world most students who are not the sons and daughters of the small numbers of wealthy people do have to invest in their future by taking loans and working during the vacation. That is not always easy in a small country,” he added.
Pointing out that the banks have come forward with a number of loan arrangements for tertiary studies, Sir Henry said he did not think the university, the Government and the banks were “taking advantage of publicizing the availability of low interest loans for students”.
In addition, Sir Henry said there should be greater collaboration between Government, the administrators of tertiary institutions and the private sector to create areas of study for which the job market required the skills.
“The old saying is, ‘cheapness aren’t no good and freeness is not appreciated’. That is what Barbadians have always known,” insisted Sir Henry.
“We have reached a point in Barbados where we have not meshed the nature of our tertiary education with the available with jobs. And the dramatic expansion of the University of the West Indies is wonderful, but it has not gone hand in hand with a dramatic expansion of opportunities for graduates from the University of the West Indies,” he added.