Minister of Commerce and Industry, Donville Inniss has challenged the island’s ophthalmologists to establish Barbados as the Caribbean centre of excellence for eye care.
Addressing the annual conference of the Ophthalmologists Association at the Accra Beach Hotel yesterday, Inniss noted that Barbados has one of the highest number of ophthalmologists per 1000 in the western world, and he encouraged them to take the necessary measures to promote their services abroad, as it will also contribute to the development of the island’s health tourism product.
According to him the political will must first exist for this goal to be achieved. He added that there must also be a public/private partnership for the development and growth of ophthalmology services here, with greater use being made of facilities at the state-run Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) by allowing private investors and investment in the plant and equipment at the facility.
“Why should the state continuously struggle with trying to find money to make such investments when private enterprise can do such?” he asked.
Inniss also called for facilities at the QEH to be opened up to healthcare providers other than those currently employed there.
“One of the worst things we can continue to do in this region is to have physicians control our healthcare institutions. Often times we develop a culture that can be akin to that of the mafia, whereby turfs are established and controlled by an old boys network that then deprives the institutions of the best skills and technology, as well as denying others an opportunity to hone their skills and earn a decent living along the way.
“Why can’t an ophthalmology suite at the QEH be available for all ophthalmologists to utilise rather than each one of you having to make investments in your own plant and equipment?”
The Minister encouraged the University of the West Indies to set its sights on becoming the premiere teaching and research centre for ophthalmology care in the region.
“I am deeply concerned over the continuing focus on producing a large number of MBBS graduates with not enough focus on postgraduate training and building centres of excellence in a few areas. We cannot do everything for everyone so let us pick a few areas and become experts in them,” he stated.
Inniss also pointed to the issue of financing of the healthcare system, stating that a new model is needed. The Ministry of Health is currently developing new concepts which are expected to be more patient-focussed, technologically driven and cost effective.
“We must not quiver in our boots when we have to make significant decisions. There will always be detractors but we must stay focussed on the goals. Had I bowed to the attacks and condemnations in 2010 when I set about to reform the Barbados Drug Service which was then costing taxpayers $53 million per year and growing at a rate of ten per cent per annum, we would not have gotten our expenditure in the BDS down to the $21 million per annum that it is today.” Inniss said.