Barbados does not need another “castle in the air”, says Former Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the University of the West Indies Sir Henry Fraser, as he dismissed Government’s proposal to construct a new hospital.
“What we do not need is a new hospital,” he told executives and supporters of the ruling Democratic Labour Party, including Acting Prime Minister Richard Sealy, at a lecture organized by the party at Almond Bay, Hastings, Christ Church last evening.
Sir Henry argued that the country could not afford a new hospital, given the prohibitive costs involved.
Citing a report done ten years ago by leading hospital developers, he said a new state-of-the-art block and restoration of the QEH would cost about $500 million while a new hospital would cost almost $890 million.
“We can’t afford it,” he stressed.
Back in May, Minister of Health John Boyce said a new hospital was still on the table and the search was continuing for an ideal location.
“We need to come to a final strategic position in respect to the location of new hospital and all the facilities associated with a new hospital,” he told reporters after the handing over ceremony of two new ambulances at the QEH.
However Sir Henry advised that repairing the QEH was the better and cheaper option.
“It does need repair and it does need a modern block, because with a new state-of-the-art-modern block you get the state-of-the-art stuff you want and then you use that upon completion to move the patients wing by wing and repair the hospital. It is a no brainer,” Sir Henry advised as he spoke on the topic, Health Care Delivery, Chronic Disease and Barbados of the Future.
But insisting that weaknesses at the island’s main medical facility were not merely the building, he urged authorities to focus on curing a range of recurring disorders.
“Our problem at the hospital has always been . . . lack of staff; it is a problem of up and down morale, it has been a problem with equipment, and in recent times a problem of shortages. So let us acknowledge the facts and do what is needed rather than build castles in the air,” he said.
The Professor Emeritus urged Government to increase the annual budget for the QEH, contending it had been underfunded by at least $200 million in the last two decades.
Sir Henry also proposed the introduction of a health levy to help fund escalating health care costs.
“The only short-term solution is the proposal from so many people for a health levy, each according to income and separate from the National Insurance Scheme. This would provide a more equitable solution for the majority than we have at present and help us to achieve that goal of equity.”
On the other hand, Sir Henry, an Independent Senator, called on Government to construct a state-of-the-art private tourism medical hospital at site of the old St Joseph hospital in St Peter.
Pointing out that the project went to tender more than six years ago by Invest Barbados, he questioned the delay, suggesting there was much demand for such a facility.
“It will be a win-win, not only for considerable income through medical care, but the branding of Barbados, the attendant hotel bookings. Everyone with a hotel within ten miles will benefit and there will be state-of-the-art facilities and specialized surgeons working together with our health care team. That will also save us a fortune in the medical aid scheme the Government can no longer afford, and in overseas referrals and travel for specialist care by the filthy rich,” he said.