One of the country’s leading pharmacists last night warned that the introduction of mandatory fees for health care services could have tragic consequences.
Former President of the Barbados Pharmaceutical Society (BPS) Bandell Serrano said many Barbadians simply could not afford to pay for health care.
Speaking at a town hall meeting which explored ways to sustainably finance the health care system, Serrano said the country had “no choice” but to make health care easily accessible, otherwise too many people would be prevented from accessing the service if mandatory fees were introduced.
“It is not a question of if we can afford health care; we have no choice but to provide it. We have changed from free universal health care to universal health coverage. I think that is the way forward.
“Initially I thought that free health care was it; let everyone pay a user fee. But as a pharmacist I also get a chance to listen to people. One thing pharmacists found out is, whilst most Barbadians do agree that some level of payment should be made, on the other hand they also understand that enforcing the user fee may limit access to health care,” Serrano told the audience.
In fact, the former BPS head said some patients had been forced to choose between paying user fees, whatever the level, and feeding their children. This, he said, was not good enough.
“I do not think that is what this country was built on. I do not think this is the way the country will proceed.”
Serrano suggested what the country needed was a hybrid system of health insurance for those who could afford it and free health care for people who were unable to pay.
“If I have health insurance and I can pay for it, do I go and sit around at a polyclinic? Do I believe that the service there is excellent? Do I prevent someone who does not have the resources to have access to the service?
“Medication, even in Government institutions is not unlimited. Do I say that because I pay taxes I should benefit from the service? You have a choice, but the other person does not. We need to recognize the Government cannot underwrite the full health bill, so let me assist,” he stressed.
The longstanding pharmacist also called for better management of the financial resources, including the purchase of “high quality” generic drugs for non communicable diseases. (NC)