|Health Minister, Donville Inniss (right) unveiling the plaque to officially open the Coverley Medical Centre. (A. Miller/BGIS)|
To ensure affordable, comprehensive health care coverage is available to all, this island’s Health Minister, Donville Inniss, has committed to supporting requests for the waiver of duties and taxes and other incentives necessary for the development of such facilities and services.
Mr. Inniss made these comments last Friday at the official opening of the Coverley Medical Centre Complex, a health care facility offering comprehensive family medicine and emergency care in the Coverley Housing Development, Christ Church.
Mr. Inniss contended that even in these challenging economic times, Government’s objective was to provide affordable health care for all citizens, but this could only be achieved through public and private sector partnerships.??
"There has been much hue and cry on the issue of concessions from Government to foreign private investors vis-a-vis that of domestic investors in the health sector. I met recently with the Presidents of BAMP and The Barbados Dental Association on this matter, and was able to provide them with evidence as to the position of the Ministry of Health on this issue.
"Long before this became a public issue, my Ministry had formally written to the Ministry of Finance indicating that we would support requests for the waiver of duties and taxes on capital items for health care facilities and other incentives which may be deemed necessary for the development of such facilities and services. This position was taken without recourse to consideration as to whether the facility is owned by locals or foreign investors. This is a position which I solidly stand by as Minister of Health.?? I have seen no evidence that the Ministry of Finance differs in such thinking," he asserted.
While emphasising his Ministry’s commitment to creating programmes and policy initiatives that would make access to health care more equitable, Mr. Inniss, also bemoaned the ambiguity in some application procedures and the length of time it took departments to finalise applications.
"Our delays or inconsistencies in applying the law can cause great financial hardships and frustration to investors – be they local or foreign. Likewise, I always encourage the private sector to continue to show respect and support for public officers and to follow the rules and regulations where applicable," he added.
The Health Minister put on record his gratification that the addition of Coverley Medical Centre to the health care offerings on the island was "a good example of private investment in a public good".
He stressed: "Even though approximately 14 per cent of our national budget is allocated to health, we must recognise that the provision of such services should not rest solely on Government… The goal of good health for all can be achieved with the combined efforts of Government, its social partners and individual citizens". The Centre houses the Coverley Diagnostic Radiology Services, the Coverley Medical Centre and the Healthsmart Pharmacy. It operates seven days a week from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., while the pharmacy hours are 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.