Cutting back


The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is hiring experts to help it reduce its operations cost as it prepares to receive $44.5 million in additional financial support from Government.

Minister of Health Donville Inniss said today that at a time when the cost of supplies had doubled in some instances, the island’s primary health care institution saw increased “cost containment” as part of the solution.

But despite the challenges, the St. James South MP told the House of Assembly, the QEH had been transformed since the current administration came to office in 2008.

He was leading debate on a supplementary resolution, discussed and approved by members, for about $50 million in funding for the health care sector, including the funds for the QEH.

“The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which is the main user of our health care budget has been given the go head to engage actuaries to have a look at further cost reductions or cost containment therein and at the same time to look at various modes of financing health care,” the minister said.

Using the increased cost of some medical supplies to illustrate the growing financial pressure the hospital faced, Inniss said a box of gloves which cost $6 in the previous financial year now cost $12, the price of a box of 24 sutures had increased from $133 to $167, while a box containing 10 colostomy bags “have gone up from $42 to $51, which is a 21 per cent increase”.

“So these are natural increases that go beyond the control of the state, but … we have to meet them, we can’t say to patients we can’t suture you because we can’t buy the box of sutures, we have to get them to meet the demands,” he noted.

“Of course there is also the challenge of recognising that with a tightening in the economy there would have been a natural gravitation away from the private sector to the public sector and that certainly has had an impact upon the Queen Elizabeth Hospital over years.

“It is not cheap to run a hospital, particularly in our environment where our health care system is primarily state funded, where … in recent years seeing the demographics we are now perhaps considered an aged population where about 15 per cent or more of our population [is] over the age of 65, where the disease profile or the health challenges have changed somewhat more … away from communicable illnesses to non communicable illnesses,” he added.

The challenges notwithstanding, the official said there were noticeable improvements at the QEH, including a $15 million electrical upgrade. Additionally, he said the hospital’s administration would shortly contract a company to digitise its medical records, “the first step towards an electronic patient records system there”.

While fees at QEH have not been increased since 2006, the minister said, the hospital had moved from collecting only 40 cents in every dollar billed to in excess 80 cents on every dollar billed. (SC)

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