The Ministry of Health’s office at Jemmott’s Lane.????

The Barbados Cabinet recently agreed that the Ministry of Health should enter into negotiations with potential consultants on the issue of a new hospital for this country.

This was revealed recently by Minister of Health Donville Inniss, as he addressed a press conference called to update the public on developments in his Ministry. ??He noted that the consultants would be engaged for the purpose of "conducting a feasibility study on the construction of a new hospital on a greenfield (new and rural) site, to conduct appraisals of alternative sites and make recommendations on the most suitable location for a new general hospital."

According to the Health Minister, they would also be required to advise on cost estimates for the construction of such a hospital, as well as make recommendations on possible financing models, whether a public-private partnership or traditional financing measures.

The process would also call for consultations with stakeholders on the various options, a point which Mr. Inniss emphasised was critical. "We take this very seriously. We are of the view that the consultants have to engage the public, staff and other stakeholders on the various issues," he stressed.

It was also revealed that the Health Ministry was moving ahead with plans to relocate its staff from the deteriorating Jemmotts Lane facility by the beginning of next year. ??Minister Inniss said: "We have already relocated the Barbados Drug Service from Jemmotts Lane to Fontabelle, and the National Insurance Board is currently working on renovating two-and-one-half floors at the Frank Walcott Building on Culloden Road to accommodate the main Ministry of Health.

"We expect that renovations should be completed by the end of the year with the intention of the Ministry’s staff moving shortly there afterwards."

He noted that the staff complement of the Health Ministry was almost 3,000 and not all persons could be accommodated at the Culloden Road location. ??However, he pointed out that Government was "very much committed to providing decent accommodation for public officers". ??

Members of the media also heard that Cabinet had agreed to the establishment of an independent National Health Care Quality Council as the national coordinating agency for quality management in the health sector. ??The Health Minister acknowledged that the initiative was being pushed because "we have heard the concerns with regards to quality of care being raised in both public and private institutions and facilities".

According to him, the terms of reference of this committee would involve advising the Ministry on issues pertaining to quality care; providing annual reports to the Minister on the quality of the sector; setting benchmarks on which performance can be measured and establishing performance standards and protocols, measurable indicator and evidence-based tools that should be applied in evaluating every aspect?? of the health services and to audit the performance of institutions and providers; licensing health care institutions and develop linkages with reputable international agencies to facilitate interaction and cooperation with respect to benchmarking, peer review and accreditation.

It is proposed that the Council should be established by law under the National Health Services Act, Cap 44, and as stated by the Minister, it would be "an important tool in assisting in raising the standard of health care across the board in Barbados, both in the public and private sectors".

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