The struggling Barbados economy is losing $145 million a year as the cost of treating non-communicable diseases (NCDs) continues to soar, according to Minister of Health John Boyce.
Boyce Monday morning told a consultation on a National Strategic Plan for Health that the treatment of hypertension and diabetes alone accounted for 58 per cent of expenditure by the Barbados Drug Service last year.
In addition, he said the losses due to lost productivity took the cost of fighting cardiovascular diseases and diabetes well above the $200 million mark.
The minister quoted from a report on the Investment Case for NCD Prevention and Control in Barbados commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Health Organization in 2015, which estimated that “while BDS$64 million was spent on the treatment of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, it was indicated that our economy may be losing as much as BDS$145 million annually due to missed work days, low productivity and reduced workforce participation.
“In other words, the direct and indirect economic cost of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes was over BDS$209 million annually, or about two per cent of Barbados’ gross domestic product,” Boyce said.
He added that end stage renal failure was also a growing public health concern, driven primarily by high levels of hypertension and diabetes in the population.
He noted that while Barbados can boast of significant health improvements in the post-independent period, and communicable diseases were no longer the leading causes of illness and death, health officials now faced outbreaks of new diseases, the re-emergence of infectious diseases in other countries, as well as the challenge of antimicrobial resistance, which dictate the need for surveillance measures to prevent outbreaks from occurring here.
“In January 2016, Barbados like other countries in the region, recorded its first cases of Zika. Rapid international travel and trade, population movements, water management practices and climate change are among the factors that create opportunities for the global spread of such diseases,” he said.
He also highlighted the progress made so far in the treatment of HIV, through the ministry’s Treat All initiative, which allows people infected with the virus to access treatment.
According to Boyce, the programme will also assist Barbados to achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 target, which seeks to increase to 90 per cent, the proportion of people with HIV who know their status; increase the number of people receiving anti-retroviral treatment to 90 per cent; and increase the proportion of people under treatment who have an undetectable viral load to 90 per cent by 2020.
“To support these and other objectives, a new laboratory is currently under construction at the Ladymeade compound. This new facility when completed, will amalgamate the existing Public Health, Leptospira and Ladymeade Reference Unit,” Boyce stated, adding that those were some of the areas to be discussed at this week’s consultation.
He said that the National Strategic Plan would ensure that Barbados had universal health coverage and meet its international obligations, particularly with respect to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“This will include the need to identify appropriate models of care, the human resources required, the appropriate governance structure with supporting regulatory frameworks and cost containment mechanisms, with particular emphasis on sustainability, access to care and quality improvements,” he said.
This week’s talks will focus on health sector reform, health system efficiency and cost containment, patient experience and access, and quality improvement.