Government is pressing ahead with plans to construct a new hospital, even as Minister of Health John Boyce said he expected to return to Parliament during the course of this financial year to seek additional funding for health care.
Boyce told party supporters and a meeting last night of the St Philip South branch of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) that despite escalating costs, a new hospital was still on the cards. He revealed that a site visit would be conducted tomorrow to one of the areas identified “probably the most likely area to approach Cabinet about for the construction of a new hospital”.
He did not identify the area nor did he reveal the projected cost of the new facility. However, he said consideration had to be given to how it wouid be funded.
“This has to be part of the thinking, the cost of such a facility all kind of numbers have been rolling around but we need to not only work out the cost but we need to work out how is it going to be paid for. We are accustomed of not paying for health care at the point of delivery and this regime that we certainly support and want to maintain in our country,” he said.
Boyce said that health care costs continued to rise, reaching $840 million a year, and that the $145 million allotted in the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for 2016/2017 was inadequate.
He told party supporters that Government had budgeted that amount “knowing full well that over the period of the year we would have to add something to this depending on how the expenses go . . . so we expect to come back to the Parliament for what we call a supplementary to add to the hospital’s expenditure budget”.
He explained that the $840 million was for both public and private care, with approximately $450 million for the public sector and the remainder for private services, including $250 million in payments directly to the doctors by patients.
“What the data tells us is that it is a relatively higher percentage in terms of international numbers by the World Health Organization. So we have to ask ourselves how sustainable is the health care model we have and how do we correct it,” Boyce told the audience.
He explained that a lot of insurance companies had been experiencing challenges which had prompted the Ministry of Health to find a model for health care financing.
“What kind of insurance can we add to what’s happening now? What kind of financing policy can we add to ensure that this health care is continuously available? Right now the Government of Barbados provides something in the order of about $400 million in health care by way of direct contribution from the consolidation fund,” he told party supporters.
“We have to put in place a model which understands these very important demands which will be acceptable to us and our children and our children’s children,” he said even as he made it clear that the present model “works very well” when compared to the United States whose per capita national health expenditures stood at US$9,255 in 2013, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.