We do need to get QEH right meds
If the comments of ordinary citizens on our Facebook page are anything to go by, Barbadians are not amused by yesterday’s decision by Speaker of the House Michael Carrington to deny an Opposition motion to debate the state of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).
Let us state from the outset that health care, an issue of national importance, like so many others, is not a political football, and should not be reduced to which party strikes first on matters pertaining to it. Far be it from us to tell the Speaker how he should interpret the rules of Parliament, but facts are facts.
Parliament is there to debate the people’s business, and if the recent warning from doctors under the umbrella of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) that they would only be performing emergency services because of critical shortages in basic and essential supplies is not the people’s business, then what is?
Ask any Barbadian in need of critical care who is forced to wait long hours in the Accident & Emergency Department, or on ambulance stretchers in the hospital corridors.
Parliamentarians would do well to take note of the public’s growing disinterest in and cynicism towards their weekly sessions and get their business in order. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is like a malignant cancer demanding urgent surgery; and it’s not the first time we have been here.
A mere five months ago, BAMP raised alarm and the Government rushed to the aid of the hospital with a $22 million cash injection which, according to hospital authorities, went towards clearing debt, among other things. But clearly this was a mere Band-Aid on a festering sore. The wound is still to heal, and Minister of Health John Boyce’s announcement of another cash injection of up to $25 million over the weekend is yet another plaster and not the remedy.
So we must wonder when this patient virtually at death’s door will be done right by the much needed and appropriate procedure. Don’t doctors instruct patients against ignoring symptoms and delaying treatment? So why the delay in an open, frank discussion on how the ills at the QEH will be treated –– and hopefully cured?
The four goals of good health care are to relieve symptoms, prolong life, cure the disease, and improve the quality of that life. No doubt, access to health care has been a perpetual challenge to providers, but we’re wearied by the repetition of the need to provide a sustainable funding model for the QEH –– especially when little appears to be done.
We’ve heard the arguments from leading stakeholders on the possible mechanisms for funding, including fees for service, cost sharing (insurance, either private or Government-sponsored), free of fees at point of delivery (payments being made through general taxes, health levies, and so on) and cost recovery. But in the absence of full public debate Barbadians remain clueless on what is best in our context.
We earnestly hope that the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s financial woes will not be handled like those of University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, where the imposition of tuition fees this semester has hit many families, resulting in a significant enough reduction in the number of university graduates this developing nation will now produce.
It is time to look at available treatments to avoid further deterioration at the nation’s main hospital; and we urge that any final decision on its future operation must guarantee fair access to health care for all citizens.