The Ministry of Health is ready to present to Cabinet its proposals for salvaging Barbados’ health care system and placing it on an affordable footing.
Minister of Health John Boyce made the disclosure over the weekend in an address at a Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) and University of the West Indies’ function welcoming the 2016 batch of graduating doctors.
Noting that a three-year-old National Health Accounts Study had revealed that the island’s total health care system was staggering under a $732.6 million annual operating cost, representing 8.7 per cent of the island’s gross domestic product (GDP), Boyce said, “After having several public consultations and input from agencies such as the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners, the National Insurance Scheme and representatives from private insurance companies, the Ministry of Health is in a position to advise the Cabinet of Barbados on the options for financing health care”.
Some of the public consultations to which the Minister referred were a series of town hall-style meetings, held across the island earlier this year at which Barbadians shared ideas on the way forward for health care.
Barbados’ total health cost equates to $2,582 per person per year. Boyce told the new doctors: “You are entering into the field of medicine at a time, when as a nation, we are still trying to lift ourselves out of recession and an essential component of this must be to control the spiraling cost of health care.
“A spiraling cost occasioned by the increase in chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs), due in large part to population aging, economic development and unhealthy behaviors”.
“NCDs are now the leading cause of premature loss of life, lost productivity and spiraling health care costs,” he added.
The Minister went on: “One of the key challenges identified is the impact of a growing and aging population on our healthcare system. As our population ages, our healthcare services will need to grow in tandem.
“In 2015, our population of persons over the age of 65 represented approximately 20,000 Barbadians and was projected as being likely to increase to 32,000 individuals by 2025.”
Boyce pointed out that Barbados’ health care financing struggle was made more difficult by the island’s peculiar demographic changes that see fewer people of working age, and the number of retirees grow.
“A shrinking workforce and a rapidly aging population make it extremely critical for the dialogue with respect to how we finance our health care systems, given the projected increased lifespan of our citizens.”
Boyce said that the rapidly expanding aged population combined with the prevalence of non-communicable diseases, “require strategic approaches involving not only the health sector but National Insurance, Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development and the Ministry of Finance”.