Free health care for Barbadians will continue.
This assurance has come from Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, who pointed out that Barbadians would find out during this financial year how Government plans to “properly” finance health care in Barbados.
Sinckler was leading off discussions on the 2016/2017 Estimates of Expenditure and Revenuein the House of Assembly yesterday.
In the 400-plus page document, he has proposed that the Ministry of Health be given $332.7 million for the upcoming fiscal year, about $3.4 million less than the 2015/2016 fiscal year.
A breakdown showed that the budget estimated for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) is $146.25 million, compared to the $155.357 approved for 2015/2016.
However, a defensive Sinckler insisted “there is no cut in QEH budget”.
“In fact, Mr Speaker, we have had a programme going with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital people and the Ministry of Health, discussing public financing of health in Barbados,” said Sinckler.
“And we expect during the course of this financial year that the Government will be able to bring to Parliament not only the findings of that discussions, but firm recommendations for the proper financing of public health in Barbados and it will not include asking Barbadians to pay for service at the QEH either. I can tell you that straight off the bat,” he said to applause from his colleagues.
Stressing that Government was “committed to free service at point of delivery, universal access to all”, Sinckler said “that will continue”.
“But we will have to find innovative ways to ensure that we can support both public financing, but also for those persons who can enjoy private service in the private health care community, which is growing by leaps and bounds and giving us new and more sophisticated treatments and medicine in Barbados. So there is no cut in the QEH,” he added.
Sinckler’s assurance was reinforced by Minister of Health John Boyce today, who said, “we continue to work towards our signed and agreed principle in Barbados that health care access is for all, health care coverage is for all and no public charges at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. That has been and will continue to be the position of the Democratic Labour Party”.
Revealing that the island’s total health care budget was about $840 million, Boyce told the House there had been a significant jump in spending at the QEH between 2008 and 2011 because of the introduction of six new specialities, which had resulted in fewer Barbadians seeking medical treatment overseas.
He however admitted that institution’s revenues, estimated between six to eight million dollars annually, was still a challenge, but stressed that those resources would be closely managed in order maintain a relationship with suppliers.
Boyce pledged that suppliers who had been anxious for the hospital to settle outstanding debts would soon get relief.
“We will continue to eat away at those existing debts and that as soon as we are able to release those funds which the Minister of Finance has released to the QEH in the order of 24 million dollars to essentially liquidate the debt to our suppliers at the QEH. In the meantime the administration of the hospital has worked out a supplier arrangement with these providers, which has seen that confidence maintained,” he promised.