Health Minister, John Boyce addressing the opening of Sagicor’s two-day Hospital Showcase and Information Seminar??at Hilton Barbados??. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

Government is looking to reform the financing of healthcare in Barbados.

Minister of Health, John Boyce, said the State could not provide "all services to all people" and, as a result, it would be engaging providers of health insurance plans to discuss the way forward.

Speaking at the opening of Sagicor’s two-day Hospital Showcase and Information Seminar entitled: When Overseas Medical Treatment Becomes Necessary – Finding the Best Quality and Most Affordable Care today at the Hilton Barbados, the Health Minister said that the private sector had forged a niche in two vitally important areas – the provision of healthcare insurance plans, and the delivery of healthcare services.

He added that the move, globally, was towards a policy objective of universal health coverage.

"The aim of universal health coverage is to ensure that all people obtain the health services they require without experiencing financial hardship when paying for them. In other words, people should not be plunged into poverty just to pay for healthcare.?? That defeats the spirit of the first Millennium Development Goal, which is to reduce poverty," he told the audience which included exhibitors from Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Canada and the United States representing hospitals and facilities providing medical services and products.

The Health Minister lamented that there was not enough dialogue between the Ministry of Health and the plan providers.?? And, he noted that as a result, his Ministry did not know the extent of the population that was covered by health insurance plans or their annual expenditure on healthcare.?? He pointed out that these issues must be addressed if the Ministry of Health was to meet Barbadians’ demands for timely and appropriate services.??

Mr. Boyce stressed that Government would continue to provide an enabling environment that allowed private healthcare providers to operate in the interest of the wider society.?? In this regard, he said the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) had been outsourcing dialysis services to the private sector to satisfy demand and noted that presently, there were 24 patients receiving treatment by private institutions at a cost of $60, 000 per annum.

He added, however, that the Ministry maintained a very tight regime of inspection and monitoring in these private sector facilities.

It was also pointed out that Government had no intention of reducing access to essential care at its state-owned facilities but would continue to adequately resource its operations to meet the demands of the most vulnerable in society.

"Within the parameters of Government’s commitment to the provision of the best quality healthcare to the citizens of Barbados, is a scheme through which persons may be referred overseas for medical services, which are not available here in Barbados.??

"The Medical Aid Scheme has been in existence since 1987 and is administered by the QEH. Each case is considered on its own merit and is initiated by a referral from a consultant at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital confirming that the technology is not available in Barbados to treat the case," explained the Health Minister.

Mr. Boyce also noted that the QEH would continue to partner with hospitals and "centres of excellence" overseas where professionals came to Barbados to provide medical interventions for patients.

"Through these strategic partnerships, Barbadians have been afforded access to high-end specialties at cost effective rates, including cardiology, orthotics neurosurgery and orthopedics," Mr. Boyce said.

Sagicor’s Chief Operating Officer, Edward Clarke, said that while the QEH had an outstanding track record of patient care there were times when medical treatment abroad became necessary.??

"Our world is quickly becoming a global market place and the restriction and barriers are becoming things of the past. As a multinational entity, we at Sagicor have to keep pace with this dynamic world… we must tailor our solutions to meet the changing needs of our clients – this means improved treatment and care, better care, [and] less expensive treatment if they do have to go overseas," he said.


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