The Queen Elizabeth Hospital can become the Caribbean’s finest health institution, bringing in “humongous” amounts of revenue, according to one of Barbados’ most prominent retired physicians.
However, in order to achieve this, Government must provide adequate funding and stop using the hospital as a “political football”, Independent Senator Sir Henry Fraser today argued.
Sir Henry told the Senate that for much too long successive governments had neglected and underfunded the Martindale Road medical facility, and that “it is widely acknowledged to be the most battered political football in the entire 50 years of our history”.
As a result, its potential as a top-class hospital earning hundreds of millions of dollars had never been realized, he contended.
“We have lost a major opportunity through the lack of vision across those five decades . . . . In every administration we have lost the opportunity of earning income, kudos in the field of health care, fame and goodwill in the Caribbean by not making the hospital the Mayo clinic of the Caribbean,” Sir Henry said in his contribution to the debate on the Appropriations Bill 2016.
Mayo Clinic is a health centre based in Minnesota, USA, and is universally regarded as the finest the world. Sir Henry said he had “a burning ambition to see the Queen Elizabeth Hospital play that role” for the Eastern Caribbean and the northern territories of South America.
“We could, and we still can” achieve this dream, he argued, by catering to hundreds of Caribbean patients who otherwise travel to North America for medical care, and this “would bring humungous income to us in Barbados”.
The retired surgeon charged that the allocation for the hospital in this year’s Estimates was far from adequate, contending that the healthcare facility needed an annual budget of close to $200 million if it was to “make good the inefficiencies” with which it had been plagued over the years.
In the 2016-2017 Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue tabled in Parliament earlier this month by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, the Freundel Stuart administration proposed to cut the QEH’s budget by $9.1 million to $146,250,000 from the $155,357,500 approved for 2015-2016.
Sir Henry, who interned at the hospital in 1969 and returned for 33 years of service from 1977, complained that “whenever there is a budgetary crisis in Barbados, ever since the first oil crisis 1973, the first cuts to be made appear to be the QEH”.
“The same strictures seem to be operating now to the detriment to the QEH, and with many costly ripple effects, not just from the other elements of health care across the country, but on the social effects, and on the morale of the people,” the Independent Senator said. (GA)