Government is seriously contemplating outsourcing some of its healthcare obligations to the private sector.
So says Minister in the Ministry of Finance and Member of Parliament for Christ Church East Central Ryan Straughn as he addressed constituents at a Barbados Labour Party (BLP) branch meeting at the Milton Lynch Primary School on Sunday.
According to Straughn, Government was working to improve the quality of services offered to taxpayers even in the face of the $67 million in much needed improvements for the state-run Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH). However, he said while engaging the private sector may not appear to be the most desirable option, it could significantly ease the burden on Government and immediately improve the standard of healthcare services offered to Barbadians.
“Sometimes it may not be such a bad idea to approach the private sector, because it may be cheaper for Government . . . . This may also mean that what you are accustomed to doing, going to the hospital and waiting two hours, three hours or six hours could come to an end. Sometimes you wait a whole day and you still don’t get what you need. It means making slight changes and perhaps going to an offsite facility and getting access,” said Straughn, who did not name a specific private sector facility which could shoulder some of the burden currently being carried by the QEH.
Last week, QEH Chairman Juliet Bynoe-Sutherland alluded to pending layoffs as she admitted the hospital would soon undergo “a very systematic exercise looking critically at the staffing levels of the hospital”.
“We do anticipate that there will be give-and-take increases and contraction in some areas and we are going to do so in a responsible way,” she said.
She too agreed that the hospital’s current structure was in need of an overhaul and briefly mentioned the possibility of public-private partnerships.
At the branch meeting, Straughn indicated that any burden from such private sector partnerships would be financed in the same way the QEH is currently financed.
“We are trying to make sure that when you work hard and pay your taxes, you actually get the kind of service and the kind of public good that you are paying for. That is very important and part of the conversation that we need to have going forward is precisely how we are going to access those services.
“What is the nature of the working relationship? Does it concern you whether the person doing the x-ray is an employee of the QEH or not? You want to know that when you go, it’s a service you can get, and when you show up, it’s going to be done and you don’t have to wait another three or six months. You want to know that you are going to get the service, so it means that it’s the responsibility of Government and certainly the QEH to make sure that if there’s a deficiency, that we can fix the deficiency so that you the citizen can turn up and get the type of service that you want and expect,” said Straughn.
Of the QEH’s gigantic refurbishment bill and the need to have the hospital working efficiently, he said: “You simply can’t do all at one time, because there simply isn’t enough money to do that, so what it may mean for some things, for a period of time, there may be an arrangement where you go to some external facility to get the service, because if it isn’t working at the QEH, then you have to access the service elsewhere, the Government pays for it.”