Public And Private Sector Partnerships Needed In Health Care

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Minister of Health Donville Inniss??

Genuine public and private sector partnerships can only enhance the delivery of health care in Barbados and the emergence of facilities like the Warrens Health care Complex, Warrens, St. Michael, is a step towards achieving this objective.

Minister of Health Donville Inniss, speaking at the official launch of the ultra-modern facility last Friday, said it would be "myopic" to think otherwise since these private enterprises, at times, offered services that either complemented those in the public sector or were not offered at all in the public health care system.

The new complex will offer services ranging from a drive-thru pharmacy; clinics specialising in gastroenterology and oncology; diagnostic MRI Services; X-Rays as well as family medicine; urgent care; and occupational medicine.

Mr. Inniss explained that the health and wealth of a nation were inextricably linked, noting: "Therefore, improvements to our health care system will, no doubt, impact positively on our economic development and thus be beneficial to organisations and companies operating in such an environment. I dare say that it is a two-edged sword in operation. Whatever climate affects one area, will no doubt impact the other. Therefore, investing in health can only lead to an economically strong and viable business environment, healthier citizens and improved productivity…."

He added: "Along the path, we have decided to engage the private sector in the sustainable delivery of services to our residents. Some may argue that the Government has no right to develop partnerships with or have any influence over the private health care system. That, to my mind, is a myopic view that has no relevance in today’s world. The state cannot provide all services to all residents and, hence, it is my considered opinion that we must encourage the private sector to provide services which may or may not be provided in the public sector – without compromising service levels within the public sector."

Citing examples of such partnerships, the minister said the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), in recent times, had revisited its outsourced dialysis programme with the private sector with aims at improving service levels there.

In addition, he disclosed that the public health care system had also embraced tele-radiology with private enterprise to eliminate a backlog and to avoid a build-up of cases which, in turn, could only lead to improved patient care. Mr. Inniss said he believed that a contract for the provision of such services was "very recently" signed between the QEH and private enterprise.

However, while the Health Minister welcomed private and public sector co-operation, he stressed Government had no intention of reducing access to essential care in state-owned facilities. He said it would continue to "adequately resource" state operations to meet the demands of the most vulnerable in society.

Mr. Inniss noted that at the primary care levels, his ministry had advanced discussions on the provision of improved diagnostic services "in our primary care department".?? He suggested that some of the services offered by the new Warrens Health care Complex should be utilised by some of the nearby polyclinics "to assist in a timely delivery of service to our public patients".

"All I ask in return is that your rates be fair and reasonable. We will not partner well if the attitude is one that Government can never go broke and, hence, we will pay whatever is charged," Mr. Inniss said.

He pointed out that the Ministry was not sitting idly by and watching the world pass by. Instead, he said, it had listened to those affected by the Ministry’s policies and programmes and had sought additional funding; pulled apart its operating system and placed itself in a position where it was well on its way to restoring the health care system to being one that works for the benefit of all.

Mr. Inniss stated the Warrens Health care Complex was timely since Warrens was a rapidly growing commercial area. He added the facility would have a full plate when approximately 2, 500 officers of the public service commence work in the area over the next few months.

He said the expansion of options for private patients would prevent costs from rising as in previous years, as well as cause them to decrease in some instances. In addition, he said that affordable rates in the private sector would eventually contain demands in the public sector.

melissa.rollock@barbados.gov.bb

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