The Chief Executive Officer of the state-run Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), Dr Dexter James, has welcomed the tax remedy announced by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Mia Mottley with a view to curing the current financial ills at the island’s premiere health care institution.
Delivering her so called “mini Budget” in Parliament on Monday, Mottley announced that a Health Service Contribution of 2.5 per cent will be levied on insurable earnings effective October 1, with 1.5 per cent of the amount to be paid by employer and one per cent by employees.
This is expected to raise $45 million in a full fiscal year to support the operations of the cash-strapped QEH, an announcement which came as music to the hospital CEO’s ears.
In fact, Dr James said the budgetary measure not only acknowledged the need to sustain the existing package of services offered to Barbadians, but also the fact that the existing levels of financial resources provided to the QEH were inadequate.
“We have been advocating for many years that it costs at least $200 million [recurrent and capital] annually to provide these services.
“These additional funds of $45 million are therefore an early initiative [Phase 1] to provide supplementary funding outside of those provided through the Consolidated Fund, thereby reducing the dependence on the Consolidated Fund, and in so doing, close the financing gap in funding,” he said, adding that “these direct cash flows will provide a measure of predictability in our cash resources, support better strategic and operation planning, mitigate stock-outs and improve the uptime of plant through the implementation of more robust preventive and maintenance programme”.
During her Budget, Mottley also zeroed in on the operations of the QEH’s Accident & Emergency Department (A&E) saying the current pressure on A&E was nothing short of “tremendous” with patients having “to lie in corridors awaiting attention for inordinate lengths of time”.
To ease this pressure, Mottley announced that the opening hours of two polyclinics – Randall Phillips and Sir Winston Scott – would be extended to a 24-hour basis at a cost to taxpayers of approximately $3 million.
And while complaining that conditions within the A&E were not fit for patients, their loved ones or staff, Mottley also promised that an $11 million upgrade would be made to the Department and its equipment “to raise the standards to deliver the highest quality of health care Barbados can provide”.
In welcoming the announcement, Dr James acknowledged that the present conditions in the A&E were “very cramped and esthetically unattractive”, which he said was not conducive to patient care and a highly efficient use of resources.
Dr James also said the extension of opening hours at two polyclinics would “certainly” ease the pressure on A&E and free up its resources to deal with critically ill patients as non-urgent care is shifted to the polyclinics.
“This is a major, major systemic change that will certainly improve the efficient use of the resources within our public health system. Twenty-five per cent of the patients which we now see at the Accident & Emergency Department or about 10,000 patients a year for non-urgent care can be better managed at the polyclinic,” he added.
His comments came ahead of a tour of the A&E Department this morning by Minister of Health and Wellness Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, who later told reporters that changes were needed to address a number of lingering problems at the Martindale’s Road, St Michael institution.
“There are some internal processes at the hospital itself which I am not prepared to go into now, but which we must work assiduously to resolve. It has to do with providing the best possible service to the citizens of Barbados in as short a space of time as possible,” Bostic said.
From his visit today, he said it was evident that space was a challenge at the facility, which has only 25 dedicated beds but saw approximately 40,000 patents per year, which equates to an average of about 110 people per day.
He also pointed to an inadequate waiting area and stat room, adding that “there are some timelines that have been established for achieving certain things that we have not been able to satisfy and we have to work towards those objectives because at the end of the day if we spend money to expand
. . . the Accident & Emergency, if we provide the hospital with much needed funds that we are doing, then we must satisfy the Barbadian public that their money is going to be well spent.
“The only way we are going to achieve that is to ensure that we have patient satisfaction at the end of the day . . . So it is a combination of physical expansion and enhancing internal processes and procedures,” he added.