A strong word of warning today from a top official of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) that the state-run institution simply cannot afford any more financial cuts.
Chief Executive Officer Dr Dexter James was responding to a suggestion made yesterday by Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill, Dr Justin Robinson, that if Barbados were to enter an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme, transfers for social care programmes, including health care, could be drastically cut.
However, Dr James cautioned that with the recent upsurge in violence and vehicular accidents the hospital was already under severe strain and stress from having to leave a lot of the elective work and attend to emergencies. Therefore, any more reductions would be akin to it cutting off its own limbs.
“We now have a gap in finance close to $30 million to $35 million to sustain the current package [of services, estimated at about $190 million]. So, it is difficult for me to conceive a further curtailment of the budget for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital without there being the commensurate curtailment in services,” the hospital executive told Barbados TODAY, while stressing that the QEH was required to manage all cases, which put tremendous pressure on the health care institution.
“You’ve got a population who has grown accustomed to a very high-quality package of services – secondary and tertiary care services – over the years. Therefore, any reductions in the budget at the hospital will certainly lead to outcomes that might not be acceptable to the population,” he added.
However, Robinson has suggested that transfers to institutions such as the QEH could be the first to go if Government takes the advice of some other leading economists and dives head first into a formal IMF programme.
His comments came in response to concerns raised by the IMF last week that the island’s homegrown fiscal strategy was simply not working and that as a result of the $542 million austerity measures announced by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler on May 30, the island’s overall growth was likely to slow to less than one per cent in 2017, down from 1.6 per cent last year.
Following its recent visit to the island, the IMF also cautioned that domestic inflation, which stood at 3.2 per at the end of last year, was likely to accelerate to 6.7 per cent by the end of this year based on the impact of the Budgetary measures, which included a massive hike in the National Social Responsibility Levy from two per cent to ten per cent, and a two per cent levy on all foreign exchange transactions.
With the situation as it stands, the IMF has said that it was both ready and willing to assist in stabilizing the island’s faltering economy.
However, Robinson has warned an IMF programme would be no less painful for Barbadians than Sinckler’s onerous tax measures, but that it would mean significant cuts in terms of transfers to the institutions, such as the QEH Elizabeth Hospital, the UWI, the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, the Barbados Tourism Product Authority, the Sanitation Service Authority and Solid Waste Management and the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation.