Government’s plans for a new hospital became murkier over the weekend after Minister of Health John Boyce addressed the issue at the launch of a private mobile medical service.
Boyce reported that a meeting had been held on the matter the previous evening and that Government was “aggressively” discussing the new health facility.
However, it was not clear if this meant a decision had been taken to construct the hospital and if the project would be led by Government or the private sector.
“I want to assure you that as late as Friday evening we were again having discussions . . . . We continue to aggressively discuss the idea of a new general hospital for Barbados. [But] I hope the media understands that comment and that they would not go out tomorrow and publish it and say, ‘Minister Building New Hospital,”’ he told the ceremony at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on Saturday evening.
Boyce explained that “even as we contemplate a new general hospital” it would not be at the expense of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), which was officially opened in 1964.
Last April Boyce announced that Government was pressing ahead with plans to construct a new hospital, telling party supporters at the meeting of the St Philip South branch of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) that despite escalating costs, a new hospital was still on the cards.
He also revealed at the time that a site visit would have been conducted the following day to one of the areas identified, “probably the most likely area to approach Cabinet about for the construction of a new hospital”, although he did not identify the area nor did he reveal the projected cost of the new facility.
By November the minister was announcing that all plans for a new hospital had been placed on the back burner, and the focus would have been on improving the QEH.
He had told the DLP lunchtime lecture that financial considerations had made it impossible to set a realistic timeline for a new hospital.
“I keep telling people that the question of a new hospital is always there to be dealt with. The point is when in our pro-financial programme can we afford to take that plunge. You could start and not be able to finish, but the point is when you start on a project like that you want to see it through,” he had said at the time.
On Saturday he spoke of the country’s commitment to universal health care, adding that Government was determined to maintain the standard of care that had attracted people from across the Caribbean and farther afield to this island for medical treatment.
“We continue to share ideas with developers and investors as to how best we can come up with an arrangement that will see Barbados capable of delivering the kind of health care, and having the kind of access that I refer to, in 2020 to 2025 to 2030.
“We know we cannot do it in a modern way in all respects in our existing site at Martindale’s Road [QEH] and therefore as a responsible Ministry of Health, I want to assure you here tonight, and the people of Barbados, that we continue to aggressively discuss this matter,” he said.