The cash-strapped Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) today announced that it would be going after philanthropy in a big way, as businessman Ralph Bizzy Williams came to its immediate rescue with a much needed injection of financial support.
However, while welcoming the $100,000 donation, which was made by Bizzy on behalf of his Williams Industries Inc., Minister of Health John Boyce immediately sought to make it clear that while the hospital was in dire need of funds, its officials would not be going cap in hand in search of operational support.
“I think I should pause and just indicate that this is not about begging or about depending on donations to run the hospital. Far from it! This has [been] demonstrated already by Bizzy and his presentation. It is about a commitment of the people of Barbados and those who can afford,” said Boyce, pointing out that the donations varied.
However, the hospital’s Chief Executive Officer Dr Dexter James was less shy about asking for money to assist the hospital, which was earlier said to be indebted to the tune of $30 million, in meeting its patient care needs.
In fact, he revealed that the QEH had already raised over $10 million in equipment support to date and that it would soon be establishing a philanthropy desk in the hope of attracting even greater financial support.
“We have crossed the $10 million mark in just over a year, since the launch of our equipment prospectus, through some innovative ways of trying to raise capital funds to complement those provided by the Government,” James told reporters, adding that the hospital will be pursuing philanthropy in a big way.
“Very shortly we will be instituting a desk of philanthropy where we could begin to service the many donors, residents, non-residents, the diaspora, who would like to make donations to the hospital,” he said, while assuring that “the dollars given to us are being spent wisely, but not widely”.
Earlier this year, the hospital CEO had warned of the need for a new health care financing model that reduces the dependence on central Government funding in addressing the country’s health care needs.
At the time James had also revealed the findings of a study of the national health account in 2012-2013 which found that total health expenditure in Barbados was $732 million, of which $405 million or 55 per cent was expended by Government; $286 million (39 per cent) by individuals and $37 million or five per cent by employers.
He had also stated that a panel of experts with experience in devising and implementing various aspects of national health insurance solutions had been assembled and that he hoped they would recommend the model that was best suited for Barbados.
That was back in February at the height of the health care financing debate when the hospital hosted a Health Financing Summit at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
However, since then little has been said to suggest that Government is about to embark on any such financing scheme.
However, James today welcomed the substantial donation by Williams Industries, saying the monies would go towards the planned upgrade of the QEH Eye Surgery Theatre (QUEST) and Lions Eye Care Centre and would assist the hospital in addressing a current backlog of close to 1,000 patients awaiting eye surgery for the past five years.
“The backlogs that we had of around 700 patients, we have committed to reduce that backlog by March 31, 2017,” he said.
Head of the Ophthalmology Department Dr Trevor Drakes reported that last year alone some 26,161 patients passed though the ophthalmic clinic.
“We did 1,654 surgeries of which 903 were cataracts and 751 were other surgeries, which included removal of growths on the eyes, glaucoma surgeries, surgeries on the back of the eyes, also ocular plastic surgery where the cornea was replaced, and we also did procedures on children as well,” he said.
He said once the full upgrade of the ophthalmology department was completed it would allow the institution to improve on its waiting time and overall quality of service.
Dr Drakes said it was also the intention of the hospital to capitalize on aspects of medical tourism.
“We not only plan to offer care or ophthalmic care but we certainly believe that there is a need for training of a lot of ophthalmic personnel within the region. That is certainly part of our mandate. We are committed to becoming regionally and internationally acclaimed and we plan to do this by excellence not only in the delivery of care but also in research and training,” he said.
While apologizing for the “significant” backlog at the medical institution, Minister of Health John Boyce said, “it is not as simple as it may meet the eye”.