Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Marsha Caddle believes that the research and development sector can add value to the island’s economy.
Caddle made this observation while delivering the opening address at the three-day Latest Updates in Ophthalmology Subspeciality Conference held at the Accra Beach Hotel and Spa. The conference, which is in its ninth year, brought together regional and international speakers to share ideas and knowledge and collaborate on research.
During her speech, Minister Caddle indicated that presently Barbados had medical doctors in all the subspecialties of ophthalmology including retina, cornea, neuro ophthalmology, paediatrics, ocular plastics and glaucoma. However, she urged the medical practitioners to make the next critical step into publishing research.
“Under the Barbados Economic Recovery Transformation plan we have identified not just educational services and tourism, not just medical services and tourism but research and development as a high value-added area that will contribute to a high-skill, high-income economy for our citizens,” said the minister.
Noting that youth unemployment stood at 31 per cent, Caddle said that the expansion of the medical sector would lead to job creation as well.
“We have a tremendous job in transformation and we want to not just make the opportunity for transformation and for growth in this sector available for those who already work in this sector, but we want to expand and extend opportunities to those who do not currently have access to those opportunities,” Caddle said.
“I think in areas such as these, where there is an opportunity to diversify certain parts of our operations, that we really need to find ways to increase access to . . . the medical field to others who may be looking for opportunity.”
The minister said the conference opened opportunities for further training of ophthalmologists in Barbados with fellowships at the University of Toronto and in paediatric ophthalmology.
She pointed out that the presence of Ross University in Barbados was an important step to investing and transforming medical services and the medical tourism landscape in Barbados, adding that Government had placed emphasis on public health because it recognized that it was critical to the island’s development.
“This is why we will not move away from the principle of universal access to health care and health coverage,” she said.
In reference to the recently passed Planning and Development Bill 2019, Caddle indicated that the Government was considering the development of specialized super hospitals across the region and the development of medical centers devoted to research.
“We are considering the development of a virtual super hospital made up of a network of regional centers of excellence in health. Some hospitals in the region can be a regional center of excellence and maintain equipment and machines. All over the region patients may go to one hospital for cardiovascular surgery, another for diabetic care,” she explained.
“The government is also looking to use the modernization of our planning laws and our tax laws to develop centers of global expertise to medical research and to attract the full range of clinics and medical services that want to be associated with this cutting-edge research,” Caddle added.
Ophthalmologist, Ocular and Reconstructive Surgeon, Dr. Kim Jebodhsingh, also indicated that with Barbados having all the sub-specialties in the Caribbean, the next step was research.
“A lot of research is done throughout North America and the UK, which does not necessarily apply to our population, or to our race, or to our environment or diets. So, we need to figure out why we have certain diseases, and if there are things we can do to treat and cure these diseases in the Caribbean,” Dr. Jebodhsingh said.