Minister of Health, Donville Inniss

It costs Government substantially more to care for elderly patients at its four district hospitals – Gordon Cummins, St. Philip, St. Lucy and the Geriatric Hospital – than it does for those who are part of the Alternative Care for the Elderly Programme.

However, Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, said while it might be more cost-effective, Government would not be making a major shift towards private care since most of those patients at the district hospitals were quite ill and needed a higher level of clinical care and support which was not available at privately owned nursing homes.

He was speaking to students pursuing the Master of Public Health degree at the University of the West Indies’ Faculty of Medical Sciences, Cave Hill Campus, recently, about the Ministry of Health’s policies and programmes. The Health Minister disclosed that each patient at the district hospitals cost the state $50,000 annually. He said that this compared to $30,000 a year, for those receiving care at private institutions.

The Alternative Care of the Elderly Programme places elderly individuals who cannot be accommodated at the district hospitals, in privately owned elderly care facilities at a cost to the state. There are currently 200 senior citizens enrolled in this programme.

Mr. Inniss said if there was any shift to be made it should be towards home-based care for the elderly.?? He told students it was more "humanistic" and economical to keep the elderly in a home environment for as long as possible. However, he noted, there was an "aggressive move" to institutionalise these individuals.

"I am mindful of the challenges individuals have who might be caring for someone who is elderly and who may not have all their mental faculties. They may have serious chronic illnesses so it is not easy to care for someone in that situation. There is an aggressive move to shift these individuals into institutions or leave them at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and hope the state takes them from there and place them in another facility," Mr. Inniss observed.

He acknowledged that there was a prevailing attitude that the state was supposed to bear all of the responsibility for the elderly. Instead, he suggested, it should be a collaborative effort between state-owned health care facilities and private institutions.

The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Care were working in tandem, he said, to come up with programmes to help senior citizens and their families so that they could stay at home instead of being institutionalised.

In addition, Mr. Inniss underscored the need for the number of day care facilities for the elderly, to be expanded, saying it was the way forward.

??"It is very cost-effective. It is not that the children do not love their father or mother but when you have to get up on mornings, and go to work and have to deal with your own children… if you are not working, you can’t pay your mortgage or utility bills. You really can’t stay home and that is the harsh reality we all have to face. But, if someone provides an option where you can drop your mother or father off on mornings and pick them back up on evenings, that is going to be a ???win-win’ situation. I think this is the way we are going to have to go in Barbados as we address elderly care issues on all fronts," Mr. Inniss underlined.


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