Opposition Leader Mia Mottley wants the island’s only public general hospital to become a 24-hour facility, with at least two polyclinics opening during similar hours to support its operations.
As far as Mottley is concerned, every department in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) should be effectively manned around the clock, and individuals should also be able to conduct certain transactions online, such as paying bills and completing forms.
In putting forward these suggestions as she addressed the 80th Awards Ceremony of the University of the West Indies (UWI)/Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP), the Opposition Leader mentioned a recent personal experience.
“Last week Friday, I could not pay for my aunt to be admitted to the QEH because it was 4:15 p.m., not 4 p.m. So, instead they took a guarantee from me instead of a cheque,” she told the audience.
Mottley also pointed to the need for resources to operate at least two polyclinics for 24 hours, to ease the burden off “an overworked and too small Accident and Emergency Department at the QEH”.
“Minor surgery, basic X-rays and an Asthma Bay are needed to relieve the pressure on the A&E at the QEH. The polyclinics can continue to handle the brunt of managing the NCDs [non-communicable diseases] efficiently in the day, but their capacity must also be expanded by the leveraging of telemedicine,” she said.
The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader asserted that officials have a duty, in a challenging economic environment, to ensure that existing investments in the health sector are fully utilized.
“We have a duty to leverage technology where possible to broaden access to services. This is not breaking new ground, but broadening and perfecting what is currently happening, and doing it with a sense of urgency,” she said.
During her address, Mottley told medical practitioners that the time had come to decide on the future of the island’s premier health institution.
She said that for too long the QEH had been “a political football”, and recent efforts at reform had been largely cosmetic and ineffectual.
“We must also address frontally the drivers of cost. In other words, we must know what each service at the QEH costs if we are to appropriately finance the institution to deliver the core services required,” she said.
“We must be disciplined that where new specialized services are needed, we must acquire them through partnerships, with you recognizing each new service must be justified both in terms of clinical need and cost/benefit analysis.”
Mottley added that there could be no progress until the authorities addressed the organizational culture of the QEH, “and ensure that it takes into account empowerment of workers and departments, while holding them accountable for what they must deliver”.
“QEH leadership must have the skills to bring about increased productivity, clinical excellence and exceptional customer service … These are the heart of what really matters if we are to give Barbadians the best health care,” she added.