There is an immediate need for cancer care, eye care and other critical health care services in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
And the Chief Executive Officer of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) wants the state-run health institution to position itself to take maximum advantage of these opportunities.
Following last month’s BIDC-sponsored trade mission to St Lucia, Grenada and Guyana, Dr Dexter James reported yesterday that the QEH earned close to $400,000 last year from patient referrals from the 15-nation CARICOM alone.
Though the majority of those referrals were for cardiovascular, neurosurgical and neonatal care, he said coming out of that trade mission, some of the countries had requested immediate outpatient services, in particular ophthalmic services.
The head of the QEH said he already shared the news with his ophthalmology department, suggesting it was up to them to decide if they wanted to embrace it.
However, he quickly added, “I feel so passionate about it that if there is any push back or reluctance to embrace it I would certainly discuss with our ministry and the board [of the QEH] to put out there, expressions of interest for the country as a whole to participate in the programme.
“So we may have ophthalmologists in the private sector who may wish to avail themselves of the opportunity,” he added.
THE QEH head said there was also an opportunity for the hospital to treat cancer patients from within the region, stressing, “we [have] got to go out.
“It is not just about sitting back and saying, ‘we have a good product, come get it’. The market has changed, so we are now saying to our consultants, the opportunity is there. They now have to seize the opportunity.”
Based on the feedback received from the three Caribbean states visited during the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation-led trade mission, the hospital CEO said they were “very happy with the quality of care and outcomes” for the patients who were treated at the QEH.
However, Dr James said at least one area was identified for improvement.
He explained that in many instances, the incoming patients knew no one or had no family in Barbados, which it was felt made them vulnerable.
“Therefore, they have asked us to expand and improve on our concierge services. That would involve negotiating preferential rates for patients, providing ground transportation to and from the airport, smoothing out the whole admissions process and the billing arrangement,” Dr James said.
However, it came as a surprise to him that many of this region’s providers of medical insurance were not aware of the level of services provided by the QEH.
“Therefore, by default, and our own insularity we have lost out on opportunities to places like Colombia.
“Just imagine you have patients leaving the OECS countries that we have visited and going to Colombia for care that can be provided right here in Barbados and in some cases they send the patients to Miami,” said Dr James, revealing that “an arrangement” had recently been brokered with medical insurance providers in the three countries visited.
The QEH is also expected to complete its oncology suite within the next “three to four months” for treatment of “about 95 per cent of the cancers” in Barbados.
Also noting that a new consultant had recently been appointed at the hospital, specializing in below-the-belt cancer in women, the QEH boss said, “we feel we have capacity now to be able to meet the current and future needs of patients presenting with cancers, as well as support our CARICOM neighbours”.
However, Dr James said he remained “very guarded” since he did not wish to heighten public expectations beyond what the hospital could deliver.