Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, in conversation with former Deputy High Commissioner to the UK, Herbie Yearwood and Attorney for the Foundation, Nigel Bennett following the ceremony at Divi Southwinds, to mark the second Anniversary of the Precious Touch Foundation, that caters to children with life-threatening medical conditions.????

Requests for financial assistance from the Ministry of Health to facilitate medical treatment abroad, have been growing and placing pressure on the Medical Aid Scheme (MAS) of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, disclosed this recently, as he addressed the second anniversary celebrations of the Precious Touch Foundation.?? The organisation caters to the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions, from age two until their 16th birthday".

He said: "Each year, there are numerous requests for financial assistance from the Ministry of Health to facilitate medical treatment abroad for Barbadian citizens, including several children.

"Such requests are facilitated through the Medical Aid Scheme of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and each year the demands upon that scheme far outstrip the supply of financial resources provided by the Ministry of Finance."

The Health Minister noted that two million dollars had been approved at the beginning of the financial year for the MAS, and by mid-year the Ministry had to seek an additional two million dollars to meet the increase in demand.

While stating that the Ministry would wish to be in a position to grant the wishes of each applicant, Mr. Inniss stressed this was impossible. "We, however, rely heavily on the doctors and social workers, recommendations to make an informed decision on each case," he explained.

The Minister pointed out that in several cases, relatives would wish to defy the guidance of doctors and proceed upon their own course of action, with the expectation that Government would pay, no matter what the case. However, he warned against this practice, saying: "There are clear reasons why procedures are established and why they must be followed. To do otherwise, is to create and maintain chaos in the system."??

The Health Minister added: "While it is difficult to predict the frequency of occurrence of some illnesses, it is the policy of my Ministry to review the Medical Aid Scheme and use information gathered to identify the areas in greatest need of capacity- building."

Mr. Inniss indicated that occasionally his Ministry facilitated visits from specialist physicians, to make medical interventions at the QEH for those patients, who would otherwise have to go abroad for treatment to either save or improve their lives, as well as to transfer knowledge and skills to local doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers.

And, he stated: "Furthermore, we are seeking to build sustainable relations with selected foreign hospitals as a way of better facilitating treatment abroad for our citizens, and [providing] assistance in training for our local staff. Our intention is to reduce the unit cost for overseas treatment in order to assist more needy cases. Through our foreign missions in Miami, Toronto and London, in particular, we will endeavour to do such."

The Health Minister commended members of the Precious Touch Foundation, observing that their work was even more significant when it was done for a child forced to live with a life-threatening illness. "Your assistance may not reverse the medical condition, but certainly provides an inner peace and satisfaction that often times assist both the child and the caregivers," he stressed.

The mission of the Precious Touch Foundation is to translate the aspirations, dreams and wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions, into tangible real encounters and fulfilling memorable experiences.

A key objective of the Foundation is to promote a loving nation without prejudice, in an effort to brighten the lives of seriously ill children and their families, regardless of race, colour, class or creed. It also gives children and their families the moral support to engender hope, inspiration and strength to persevere, as they cope with a difficult period of treatment in their lives.

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