Heart attacks and strokes cost the public purse more than $8 million dollars, the Ministry of Health and Wellness has revealed.
Dr Arthur Phillips, a Senior Medical Officer who specialises in non-communicable diseases, (NCDs) made the revelation at an event to mark the 10th anniversary of a national registry of the lifestyle disease epidemic at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
Delivering opening remarks on behalf of Minister of Health Lieutenant Colonel Jeffery Bostic, Dr Phillips said:
“The excess cost to the Ministry of Health and Wellness from cardiovascular disease is between $7000 to $10,000 per patient and most of this occurs in the emergency phase. These costs may increase in the short term as we introduce new interventions to improve outcomes for heart attack and stroke.”
Dr Phillips told Barbados TODAY the figures presented were from a 2017 doctoral thesis by Dr Angela Rose, the Head of NCD Surveillance and Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology at the George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre.
Lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular illness account for six out of ten adults in hospital, according to the Ministry figures.
Dr Phillips said: “NCDs, which are present in a quarter of all adults and which are responsible for 60 per cent of hospitalisation seems to me to be contributing $150 million to the national expense. What is more difficult to measure but easier to understand are the impacts at individual, family and workplace levels.
“It has been estimated that one-third of all adults have an NCD and more than 80 per cent have at least one risk factor, which includes obesity, tobacco smoking, poor diet and lack of physical activity and exercise. It is therefore critical that we scale up our ability to prevent, control, manage and treat.”
The Senior Health Officer said the Ministry of Health was charged with a mandate from the Prime Minister to reduce inpatient death rates from acute heart attacks from 35 per cent to 10 per cent.
“The Prime Minister of Barbados gave the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital the charge to reduce the inpatient mortality of acute heart attacks from a worrisome 35 per cent to that in keeping with internationally acceptable standards of below ten per cent.”
Saying the Ministry of Health could not complete this task alone, the medical official said the ministry would need to engage in partnerships.
“We cannot do it all. Not in terms of human and financial resources. Not in terms of skills, not in terms of our remit. While we are the Ministry responsible for health we are very aware that many of the factors that influence health are outside of our remit.
“So we work in partnerships with technical and development agencies, [non-governmental organisations, faith-based organisations] and the private sector. We will not shy away from working with the private sector.”
He said Barbados cannot ease up on its efforts to fight NCDs despite receiving other favourable reports on the health of the nation.
“There is a lot for us to do to address the NCD reality on the ground. My sense is that people know but they don’t know. They don’t fully understand their responsibility and what they can do to reduce risk. People find it hard to start and maintain healthy behaviours. The unhealthy choice is often the easier choice.” (LG)