Ministry Of Health Becoming More Efficient

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Health Minister, Donville Inniss (right), listens intently while Managing Director of the Coverley Medical Centre, Brian Charles (left), makes a point. Also looking on are insurance executive Peter Harris (background), and Chairman of the Board of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Francis Depeiza. (A. Miller/BGIS)

Recently, the Ministry of Health has been examining the operations of the various departments under its aegis, with a view to streamlining them and eliminating inefficiencies and wastage.

This was pointed out by Health Minister, Donville Inniss, last Friday, while officially opening the Coverley Medical Centre complex located within the Villages at Coverley in Christ Church.??

He noted that private entrepreneurs knew the cost of providing each service they offered the public; but that was not always the case in the public sector. "…We seldom know the true costs of the services we provide," he said.?? "The prevailing attitude is that Government services are free all around!?? So, the Ministry is now functioning in a manner where we are beginning to understand the unit cost of the services we provide. With this kind of information, we are in a better position to make informed decisions in respect of cost reduction strategies, without compromising on the delivery of care," he explained.

Mr. Inniss told the audience that the Health Ministry was striving to improve its processes and contain unit costs, and it was placing an increased focus on preventative strategies and educational programmes, which were beginning to reap some success.

He reminded those present that as part of the Ministry’s focus of moving persons living with HIV from residential care into the community, the Elroy Phillips Centre in Black Rock was closed in March of last year, and just recently,??physically and mentally challenged patients at the Elayne Scantlebury Centre, formerly located at Belleplaine in St. Andrew, were relocated to a more spacious and retrofitted area within the St. Lucy District Hospital at??River Bay.??

Mr.??Inniss reported that the streamlining of the Barbados Drug Formulary had yielded a cost reduction of $23 million after a year, and divulged that they were now considering the amalgamation of laundry services at public medical facilities, greater utilisation of information technology and improved human resource management regulations to further assist the health care sector.?? He promised that officials from the Health Ministry would continue to listen to all sides and strive to find sustainable solutions.

"As we work towards changing the culture and business model, one must be cognisant of the fact that our success in health care reform will rest heavily on bringing clarity to the basket of health services which the state can reasonably supply at any point in time, and hitherto, address the cost of financing the said services in a sustainable manner… Health care is one such area where we have added more and more to the demands of state-owned facilities without the provision of adequate resources. That is a reality which we have to face every day in my Ministry…Simply put, we must know what services the state should be and can realistically provide, at what cost and the source of funding," he stressed.

Mr.?? Inniss told the audience he was aware of, and was "concerned about", delays being encountered by Barbadians at the polyclinics, and who were referred to the QEH for diagnostic radiology services such as X-rays and CAT Scans.??

"The delays in obtaining such services must have an effect upon patient care. I have directed that the Ministry of Health undertake a review of the situation and provide a cost-benefit analysis given the options of outsourcing the services to the private sector, [and] expanding the QEH capabilities or providing facilities and staff within the polyclinics to do such.??

"With estimated demands for diagnostic radiology services at the primary care level averaging about 3,200 per year, to provide this service in-house would cost us approximately $3 million in the first year, with recurring costs of approximately $700,000 per year. We are currently favourably considering the outsourcing of this service as the QEH does not have the facilities to expand on to accommodate the demand in a timely manner.?? This is only but one example of how the Ministry of Health intends to become more efficient and a better user of the monies provided to it," he explained.??

Mr. Inniss congratulated Managing Director, Dr. Brian Charles, the shareholders and employees of the Coverely Medical Clinic, Coverley Diagnostic Services and the HealthSmart Pharmacy, noting that the desired results in health care could only be achieved with public and private sector partners.??

lisa.bayley@barbados.gov.bb

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