The issue of financing health care in Barbados continues to be keenly debated among health care providers and the island’s political leaders.
Recently, services provided at the state-run Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) have come under the microscope, with calls for the construction of a new hospital.
However, addressing the annual conference of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP), Opposition Leader Mia Mottley stressed a new facility could not be afforded at this time, given the current state of the public finances.
“We have had 17 downgrades in our credit rating since 2010. Barbados cannot easily nor cheaply now borrow money on the international market to build buildings for the sake of erecting showpieces,” the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader said.
“We can no longer afford these indulgences,” Mottley added. “The point must be made here that Barbados must not today, as the fourth most indebted country in the world, have the luxury of building a new hospital for almost a billion dollars to deliver services, some of which can be sourced from many of you.”
She told the group of medical practitioners that when addressing health care as another aspect of development, “we have to confront the future as it is and not as we would like it to be”. She said the time will come for a new hospital when the country is returned to a sustainable growth path.
“But when we borrow money today, tomorrow to add to our debt, it must be to fulfill the vital public needs like additional operating theatres, like expanding the Accident and Emergency Department, like ensuring that our Surgical and Medical Intensive Care Units are adequate and provide the world-class standards of treatment to match the services of the medical personnel that are working at the hospital.
“I’ve never been able, forgive me, to accept that we can live in a country and be happy when persons in pain wait for more than a day for treatment in an Accident and Emergency Department, or others would have waited for months and years to get an operation that may not be life-threatening, but significantly affects their quality of life. If we do not want it for ourselves, then how is it good enough for anybody else?” Mottley asked.
She also called for increased strategic partnerships in providing health care services to the public. “If we cannot afford to build a new hospital, then we have to partner with the services that are available in this country, whoever has them, to deliver them to the people of Barbados.
“Strategic partnerships must therefore be expanded and developed that can deliver quality and reliable services at affordable prices. We’ve seen evidence of some of this with partnerships with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Diabetes Foundation, and elements of the private sector. These efforts must be enhanced.”
Mottley also called for the use of technology and telemedicine to expand the range of services provided to the public.
“We have a duty, equally, in challenging economic environments, to ensure that our existing investments, therefore, made in this country are fully utilised, and that leverage of technology will be critical. Some are already doing it and I encourage others to significantly expand as a matter of urgency.”