Authorities warn of pending payment scheme, as hospital gets shot in the arm
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) has now been stabilized with a $22 million injection from Government and with promises of more financial aid to come.
But, in the face of ongoing economic challenge, a top official today warned of the need for a longterm plan to finance the primary health care facility, which is indebted to the tune of $30 million.
Dr Dexter James, the hospital’s chief executive officer, spoke to reporters on the heels of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s address to the Democratic Labour Party’s annual conference at the weekend at which Stuart sought to put the country on notice of a change in the policy at the QEH to ensure that people who can afford to pay, do so.
While stating that the facility “must not ever lose its human face”, the Prime Minister, who is also the DLP President, said, “a mechanism must be put in pace to ensure that those who can afford to pay for the services the QEH provides are made to do so.”
However, Stuart gave no date for implementation of this new policy, neither did Dr James when he spoke during a press conference at the Martindale Road facility today.
However, the hospital CEO did stress the need for reform while reporting that since receiving the funds last month, the hospital had been able to meet a number of outstanding debts to suppliers, as well maintain patient care, the infection control programme and the hospital’s food supply.
Dr James also confirmed that just last week, he was engaged in a meeting with Government ministers who assured him that some additional funds, outside of what had been approved, should soon be handed over to the hospital.
However, he cautioned that while the facility was holding its own, there was a clear need for a sustained and predictable source of funding to prevent it from stepping back into the “hole” it was in four months ago.
“When you look at the drivers of health care costs, much of it [is] outside our control. We don’t control the cost of drugs or medical supply, pharmaceuticals or equipment, so we fear price makers in that regard and the trend in that industry is one which keeps escalating. So the only way we could, in a sense, narrow that gap between the demand for resources and the supply of resources, is to find a new economic model,” Dr James said.
The Chief Executive Officer also said the QEH’s management was hopeful that a new model would be defined and described very shortly because the gains in health care made over the last decade could not be reversed and all stakeholders needed to put ideas together.
Stating that he was in agreement that the island’s free health care package could no longer be sustained by taxation, he informed that the Ministry of Health was currently putting together a concept paper on health care financing for consideration by Cabinet.
“In the meanwhile, we have been agitating for the last four years the need for a new economic model because we saw the impact that funding, or lack thereof, was and is having on the delivery of service. Last year, we had our first Health Financing Conference and this year towards the end of early September we will be having the second annual conference and here, we will invite a number of stakeholders to again deepen this conversation around health care costs and financing. We have invited the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners, representing the medical fraternity.
“We have invited an insurance company because we want to hear from the insurance company what [is] their experience with managing health insurance. We have invited the Ministry of Health, [which] would in fact lead this process to share with the population a conceptual overview on the pressing of health care financing. So very shortly, the debate will start again and hopefully would heighten the public’s interest in the pressing issue of health care financing,” he revealed.
“But, in the meantime, we are doing the best, with the limited resources we have, [to] ensure that we can at least provide a decent package of service to the Barbadian population,” he said.