Prepare to pay!
That was the stern warning issued last night by former Opposition Shadow Minister of Health Dr William Duguid, after Minister of Health John Boyce publicly declared this week that he was now ready to propose to Cabinet the way forward for health care financing in Barbados.
Addressing a Barbados Labour Party (BLP) –– organized public consultation at the Foundation School, Christ Church, Dr Duguid said based on all that was said at the Ministry of Health’s recent town hall meetings on health care financing, Government was prepared to go the way of a health insurance scheme that would see Barbadians paying directly from their wages for health care services.
“It is my understanding that there is an intention to bring a change in the law where health funding will no longer come from your taxes, but instead will come directly from your pay packet, like how the national insurance takes a levy out of your pay packet now, with part put by the employee, and part put by the employer.
“From my visiting those consultations I got the impression that is the way that the Government is looking to go to fund health care,” Duguid said.
During the first in a series of public consultations planned by the Opposition BLP for all 11 parishes, Christ Church East BLP candidate Wilfred Abrahams also chimed in on the topic of health care, suggesting that there should be a tax incentive for those seeking private medical attention.
“If you take the burden off the polyclinics and the hospital for some services, then you should be able to claim some of that back on your taxes if you choose to avail yourself of private medical attention,” Abrahams said, adding that a similar system should be put in place for education.
“We need to look at providing tax incentives to people who send their children to private schools.
“The face of the private schools in Barbados has changed . . . . Private is not now only for the elite, private schools are for anybody who can afford it, or who want to invest in their children.”
Contending that many persons seeking to put their children through private schools were average Barbadians, Abrahams said, “I believe that we should look to providing tax incentives to people who pay to educate their children, because the spot that you free-up by sending your child to private school is a spot that somebody else can take, or another child can get a little more attention because it is one less person in a class.
“The public primary schools are overburdened. Classes are too big,” Abrahams added.
Educator Suzanne King also expressed concern about the increasing number of children leaving school untrained and unemployable.
King, who has 40 years of teaching experience and did a six-year stint teaching in the United States high school system, said, “I came back from the US in 2008 [and] nothing has been done . . . . within the structure of the schools to intervene for children at risk.
“It is my concern that when you find children as early as in the primary school, who show tendencies of violence, dysfunction, that we need to intervene at that point,” she said while making it clear that she was not suggesting another Dodds-type correctional institution but a rehabilitative school “headed by somebody who understands that these children need nurturing activities”.
Businessman Mohammed Nassar complained that too much emphasis was being placed on tourism and other services to the neglect of manufacturing.
“Unless we get industry going again, we are in deep trouble . . . because the people who are coming here to invest don’t really care about Barbados,” he warned.