Amidst concern about the future funding of health care in Barbados, the island’s premier public health care institution is facing a massive budget cut.
Government is proposing to slash the budget of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) by a whopping $9.1 million for the next fiscal year, which begins on April 1.
In the 2016-2017 Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue tabled in Parliament yesterday by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, the Freundel Stuart administration proposes to cut the QEH’s budget to $146,250,000 from the $155,357,500 approved for 2015-2016.
The Ministry of Health is in line for an overall cut in its budget of about $3.4 million to just over $332.7 million for the upcoming fiscal year, should the Estimates receive parliamentary approval.
A breakdown of the Estimates by Barbados TODAY showed that overall hospital services would face an $8 million reduction to $182 million. Also in line for a budget cut is the care for the elderly, down from the $36.1 million in the 2015-2016 period, to $35.8 million for 2016-2017.
However, primary health care services will be allocated $29.3 million, up by $1 million over the previous year, with most polyclinics seeing a slight increase.
The only exceptions are the Brandford Taitt and Edgar Cochrane polyclinics, which will both experience cuts.
It is proposed that the budget of the HIV/AIDS prevention and control project be increased by just over $70,000 to $10.9 million, while an increase of almost $100,000 is being proposed for care for the disabled, to reach $2.866 million.
The pharmaceutical programme is also due to be allocated $26.77 million, an increase of just over $550,000, should the Estimates receive parliamentary approval.
It was also proposed that the budget for environment health services be decreased by just under $300,000 to $15.7 million.
Meanwhile, it is recommended that the budget of the emergency ambulance services stays the same at $3.28 million, so too the budget for the QEH medical aid scheme, which stands at $1.77 million.
The budget of the psychiatric hospital is expected to increase to $30.77 million, up by just over $700,000.
The Ministry of Health recently completed a series of town hall meetings as it sought public input into how to finance the country’s over $700 million health care bill, most of which is being carried by Government.
Recommendations ranged from a controversial “fat tax” which was dismissed by Sinckler and Minister of Health John Boyce, to a health lottery.
However, there was opposition from several quarters to the introduction of a user fee. Among those staunchly opposed to the user fee was former shadow Minister of Health Dr William Duguid, who recommended the health lottery.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY last month, Sinckler rejected the suggestion of a “fat tax”, however he did not rule out the possibility of imposing other revenue-generating measures on the health sector.
Pressed at the time on whether there would be any new taxes on health care in the Budget, Sinckler replied: “I can’t say that at this stage, no. The discourse is going on. There are many different models that are being proposed . . . when we believe we have had sufficient discourse to be able to sit down and make an intelligent decision then we will make proposals to the country, but the process has started.”