Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, in conversation with PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Dr. Merle Lewis, at the opening ceremony.??
(A. Miller/BGIS)

There needs to be more cooperation in the region in order to address health care challenges, particularly at the governmental level.??

That assertion was made today by Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, while addressing the opening ceremony of the 28th Caribbean Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) Manager’s Meeting, held at the Accra Beach Hotel and Spa, Hastings, Christ Church.

Noting that the region’s EPI management team had been very successful in collaborating on the research and development of vaccines, and had built capacity within the system to administer programmes, the Minister, nevertheless, lamented the fact that the same cooperative spirit was lacking within other areas of our Caribbean group.

"One of the hindrances to such deep and genuine partnership is located within a relatively weak and inadequately resourced Caricom Secretariat, which is expected to provide a high-level coordinating and management role.?? I daresay that whilst the intentions are most noble, the structure and resources of Caricom bear little relation to the harsh realities of our citizens throughout the region.

"If we are to build regional institutions to serve this region then we cannot, constantly, be begging for the crumbs from the tables of others, instead, regional Governments have to be prepared to adequately finance and sustain regional institutions," he stressed.

Mr. Inniss also pointed out that one of the challenges that continued to confront our public health care system, was the disconnect between decisions made at the regional political levels, and the realities of our small open economies.??

"For example, the decisions in relation to the free movement of labour seem oblivious to the very uneven nature of the playing fields in health care.?? Hence, there is the expectation that contingent rights on health care are automatic in each island, which is already struggling to provide basic services to citizens," he explained.

The Minister, however, had some solutions to resolve some of the health care issues.?? According to him, "centres of excellence" could be built in relevant member states, which can cater to the needs of the entire region, rather than each country struggling to provide several state-of-the art facilities individually.??

"Why can’t we locate a regional ultra-modern cancer centre in one island, a paediatric facility in another island and an ophthalmology centre in another one?" he asked, adding: "there seems to be great haste to continue to spend our green back dollars up North, rather than to work together down here in our own facilities.

"Access to affordable and decent health care is too critical to the economic survival of this region and its people for leaders to be shouting empty rhetoric across the waters and trying to build kingdoms unto themselves.?? We really must do what has been done at the grass root levels for many years – build friendships and lasting relations."

The EPI meeting has attracted participants from Caricom countries as well as Canada, the Netherlands, France, the United States of America and the United Kingdom.


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