Minister of Health, Donville Inniss,??confers with a delegate at??the CBC-CARICOM Ministers’ Summit.

"While one can appreciate the desire for each department within the Ministry of Health to have its own (Information Technology) programme, it is my considered opinion that we must have one National Health Information project that embraces both the public and private sector."

That is the view of Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, who sees this as part of the solution to challenges posed by duplication, wastage, shortages and unaccountability in the health sector, throughout the region.

He was speaking at the start of the Commonwealth Business Council-CARICOM Ministers’ Summit on Strengthening Healthcare Delivery in the Caribbean: The role of Infrastructure, e-health and Clinical Management at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. ????

Mr. Inniss acknowledged that Government had recognised the need for a national approach to integrating Information Communication Technology (ICT) in its strategies and development programmes, and had established a sub-committee of Cabinet to develop a comprehensive, purpose-driven ICT Strategic Plan for Barbados.

"We have to quickly find solutions to these challenges, and I believe that the employment and deployment of technology will go a long way in addressing some of these challenges," he said, as he outlined some of the inefficiencies in the country’s heath sector.

According to the Minister, these included missing patient files resulting in costly and risky decisions; health facilities running out of stock because of failure to track stock levels and order in time, as well as spiralling costs and wastage by end users of services provided freely by the Barbados Drug Service.??

Mr. Inniss, however, noted the complexity of incorporating ICT "into the wider national health care services" and revealed that his Ministry was in the process of preparing a tender for the integration of its health information system. He explained that this would include detailed functional specifications of the various components of the system, with modules for laboratories, pharmacies and patient registration and primary care.

It was also stated that the Health Ministry was seeking to recruit an Implementation Manager, whose responsibility would be to oversee the introduction and management of the Health Information System.

And, delegates heard that significant strides had been made here, with a wide area network already in operation at all eight polyclinics and one outpatients’ clinic, to facilitate integrated patient registration, immunisation tracking, and record of visits.

Additionally, the Health Minister indicated that technological advances had occurred at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).?? He said this involved establishing "real-time and on-line diagnostic results that are accessible by medical personnel in the Intensive Care Units and the Accident and Emergency Department" and employing a Global Positioning System application within the Emergency Ambulance Service that allowed dispatchers to instantly track and re-deploy vehicles, reducing critical waiting time for patients.

However, he lamented, that operational and technological capacity at the QEH had not been matched by infrastructural development and said as a result, Government had embarked on a major infrastructural refinancing project at that institution.

"This recapitalisation project totalling $60 million comes about as a result of the need to re-establish acceptable standards of clinical and support services [within the] physical plant that was constructed almost 50 years ago. Additional investment in plant and equipment is intended to replace significant proportions of ageing and obsolete medical and non-medical equipment to raise the standard of service being delivered, and to ensure that the QEH plant can continue to adequately meet the demands of the population," the Minister added.

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