Minister of Health, Donville Inniss

The Alternative Care of the Elderly Programme, that currently accommodates 232 persons in nursing homes across the island, is costing taxpayers $6.3 million per year.

This was revealed today by Minister of Health Donville Inniss, as he addressed the opening of the inaugural workshop on ???Managing the Older Adult in Residential Care’, hosted by the Barbados Elderly Care Association (BECA), at Hotel PomMarine ??in Hastings.

The Alternative Care of the Elderly Programme (ACEP), is a contractual arrangement between the Ministry of Health and the private sector to provide another avenue for care of the elderly. When the programme was started in November 2000, there were only five nursing homes. To date, there are 36.

According to Minister Inniss: "This has helped significantly in reducing the waiting list at the Government geriatric facilities, since the number of persons awaiting placement, far outstrip the number of beds available."

Acknowledging the work done by BECA, the Health Minister pointed out that a request for Government to increase funds to residential homes for the "well" and "ill" in the Alternative Care for the Elderly Programme, would be honoured. He said: "Let me say, that taking into consideration increases in the cost of living and the projected increases in the elderly population, our research has shown that a proposed increase is indeed justified; however, we need to agree on the quantum."??

While cautioning the organisation that any increase in fees must be met by a commensurate improvement in services, Mr. Inniss noted that the Ministry of Health was currently reviewing the ACEP and revising procedures for monitoring residential and assisted-living facilities.??

He said: "This will involve continual monitoring of the status of each nursing home, increased inspection visits, outstanding concerns, compliance and non-compliance with formal notices and action taken, for example serving of formal notices, and revocation of licenses. In other words, you can simply expect the Ministry of Health to step up the inspection of nursing homes across Barbados."

Mr. Inniss explained that his ministry was not prepared to settle for mediocrity and that there was a legal and moral duty to ensure that elderly residents were placed "in a safe and secure environment where they receive optimal care and attention."

He said: "This Government takes pride in its older citizens and we operate on the premise that each elderly person deserves the best possible care. We will not discard persons in the evening of their days as we are very much appreciative of the roles that they have played in building our society and every complaint about terrible physical conditions or ill?? treatment of patients is one complaint too many.??

"You have a duty to seek to raise the standards of your facilities and [their management]: as well as to weed out the bad ones. Every bad nursing home tarnishes the reputation of all of them," he contended.

BECA members also heard that the Ministry would work with them to determine minimum standards and the Minister stressed that both would have to agree "to maintaining them and to the admission of penalties, where necessary."

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