Minister of Health, Donville Inniss

The Ministry of Health has requested an actuarial study be undertaken to determine what would be an appropriate level of financing and the mechanisms that would be adequate to sustain Barbados’ health care system.

Health Minister, Donville Inniss, on Monday told participants of a two-day seminar on Universal Health Coverage in the Caribbean being held at the Crane Resort that this would need to be preceded by an agreement on the basket of services which the state would be willing to provide to all of its citizens.

"The financing of health care systems in the Caribbean is [done] primarily via the State. This mechanism perhaps is best suited to ensure equity and affordability for all. However, it also places our health systems at the mercy of the Consolidated Fund and its cash management policies. There is no Caribbean state that has ever, or will ever, boast of an adequate supply of state funds to meet all of the health care challenges of our citizens – certainly not with the current financing policies being utilised," he opined.

Mr. Inniss stated that a reduction in funds could result in delays in payments for supplies, a cut back on elective surgeries and in some cases, even delays in the payment of salaries to health care workers. "Such periods of uncertainty do compromise health care systems in our region," he emphasised.

While noting that he often heard West Indians saying they paid their taxes and, therefore, should get the latest and best in health services immediately, that was not always the reality.?? "…Taxes collected are used to fund the entire public sector. Sometimes the health sector for its commitments has to stand in line behind salaries, pensions and debt servicing. This emphasises the need for health care financing to be addressed up front within the context of public financing in the region," the Health Minister stressed.

Mr. Inniss, however, proposed that health care financing should not just be about demanding more money, but equally about ensuring that one got "the best returns on each dollar invested and that there is a higher level of transparency and accountability in our system."?? To ensure there were reliable health care systems across the region he, therefore, called for improved efficiency, the utilisation of modern technologies and a commitment to rid regional health systems and institutions of wastage, duplication, corruption and bad practices.

"Here in Barbados we are moving ahead with an electronic patient record system, starting first with the digitisation of existing medical records. Our Queen Elizabeth Hospital is presently evaluating bids for such and I expect that an award for the provision of said services will be made within a few weeks. This will help to reduce our unit costs whilst, at the same time, improve patient care and allow for better management of patients between primary to tertiary care and back," he revealed.

The meeting was organised by the Ministry of Health and the Pan-American Health Organisation.?? Participants included such senior regional health officials, as St. Maarten’s Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, V.H. Cornelius de Weever, and Chief Medial Officers of Health and Permanent Secretaries from the various Ministries of Health across the region.?? The objective of the symposium was to find sustainable methods to ensure the provision of universal access to health care for the region.


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