Barbadians are essentially being told to grin and bear the challenges associated with the island’s healthcare system.
Director of the Urban Development Commission (UDC) Derek Alleyne made that suggestion today as he contended that just as generations before had sacrificed, Barbadians today may now have to “suck salt” for others to come.
Speaking after the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) candidate for St Thomas Dr Rolerick Hinds delivered the weekly Astor B Watts lunchtime lecture at the party’s headquarters today, Alleyne said despite the challenges, Barbadians were faring far better now than they were two to five decades ago.
“Small states like Barbados, we collectively contribute so that the less able can survive, and anytime we want to change that we are no longer the democratic socialist country that we have been for all our lives.
“Our parents and grandparents sacrificed much to provide the environment that we live in. We have to accept that things will get difficult now, but 25 to 50 years ago things were worse, and they took less to make sure we have what we have now. We have to learn sometimes to suck a little salt so that the ones that come after us don’t have to suck nipples and so on,” he argued.
While stressing that he was not “knocking young people”, Alleyne said many of them do not understand what real hardship is.
“[They] don’t know what it is to not have shoes, to go school without underwear, to go school barefoot and not to have lunch. They don’t know those things, and we have – every now and again – to tell them we don’t want them to go back to that level but they have to learn in life that sometimes it is going to get tough and you have to learn to live with the tough times.”
Health care, he said, is “the principle [challenge] we have to learn to live with”.
Alleyne’s comments followed a presentation by DLP candidate for St Thomas Dr Rolerick Hinds who spoke about the advances made in health care in Barbados over the years.
Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo, joining the discussion, said while some countries offer a higher standard of health care that was free, that was possible because citizens were paying higher taxes.
“Their level of taxation is a lot more than Barbadians would really want to be paying at this time,” she said. “We want to pay US taxes and get Scandinavian healthcare; that is exactly it.”
Dr Hinds had earlier praised the state of health care in Barbados, saying that he was satisfied the country continued to punch above its weight in that area, given the number of new and improved pieces of equipment being used at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) and the various polyclinics across the island.
“Our hospital is a public hospital, yet you get a pretty high quality of care. Some of these hospitals [around the world] are paying hospitals and they [patients] still share [rooms],” the medical doctor said.
Pointing out that various studies have ranked Barbados among the top 50 countries when it came to quality of health care, Hinds said too often people complained about various hiccups in the health care system without realizing how good they had it.
He noted that the QEH’s Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department – where patients sometimes wait “for 10 or 12 hours” to get attention – was the target of much criticism.
However, Dr Hinds said, critics did not take into account that more urgent cases, including shooting victims, had to take priority.
“But in terms of what we deliver for health care in Barbados, we are on par with First World countries,” he insisted, while pointing out that the country had done so well there was interest in using it “as a health tourism outlet”. (MM)