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More ways to finance health care needed

Dr. Dexter James

The cost of health care is escalating so quickly that funding through taxes alone cannot sustain it.

Chief Executive Officer of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Dr. Dexter James made this clear yesterday at the hospital’s first public accountability review meeting at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. He said that now was the time to look for another way to finance health care.

“So far we have used the taxation model for financing health care; is it that the taxation model has now reached the end of its fiscal life? Is it that we have to now look at other modalities of financing to make sure that we sustain this excellent packages of services?”

He said that at present there was a short fall in the approved Government budget and the funds it took to run the hospital.

The QEH employs 2,100 members of staff and their salaries consists of 60 per cent of the annual budget, while medical supplies and drugs account for nine per cent each. Inclusive of food, utilities, maintenance and other operating costs, the annual projected expenditure is $188, million whereas the approved budget was $154 million. As a result the financial gap was $34 million.

“The existing package of services currently available at the QEH is underfunded and the hospital is not in a position to sustain the current package of services to which the population has become accustomed and enjoyed.

“The relative costs have increased, demand for resources have increased, but the budget allocated to the QEH remains unchanged,” a document titled Reflections on the Past and Future Direction of the hospital and circulated to persons attending the meeting, said.

One of the main ways to assist with the high operating costs at the hospital was to strengthen their collections mechanisms, Acting Director of Financial Services, Andrea Belle said.

In November 2011, she explained, they revised their deposit policy for private patients, which now requires them to pay a sum the better reflects the potential cost of their treatment.

“The deposit policy was revised to reflect a more relevant bearing of the cost incurred by the hospital for the delivery of services and to minimise patient default/delinquency.

Belle acknowledged that since the new QEH deposit policy there had been significant improvements in collection. (KC)

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