Protect that health levy – QEH chief
Chief Executive Officer of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) Dr Dexter James has welcomed Government’s initiative aimed at raising money for health care, but said the funds ought to be placed in a special account for the QEH and associated entities.
Dr James told a gathering of health practitioners, academics and other concerned persons in the Henry Fraser Lecture theatre on Wednesday night he feared that if the $142.1 million estimated to be raised annually from this initiative were placed in Government’s Consolidated Fund, it would be misdirected and used for other public purposes.
In presenting the 2016 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals on Tuesday, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler announced the introduction of a National Social Responsibility Levy as of September 1 to help shore up the public health services system until a revised plan for health care was implemented in about two years. The minister estimated that between September and the end of this financial year in March, 2017, the levy will bring in $82.9 million.
“If at all these funds are co-mingled with the Consolidated Fund and even restricted inside the ministry of finance, it is unlikely that those funds will come to us,” Dr James warned while delivering a lecture on a
new financial model for the main public hospital.
The presentation, If not now, then when? The imperative for a New Financing Model for the QEH, was part of a lecture series organized by the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies in observance of the country’s 50th anniversary of Independence.
“Those funds should be restricted funds managed by an independent entity if [we] are to have a good chance of receiving those funds,” he emphasized.
At the same time, Dr James said the QEH and associated public health services agencies should be made to account for any money received from this levy.
“Entities like ourselves and other social services entities, must now provide the documentation to [Government] to make sure that we are not asking to buy a motor car and do nonsense with the funds entrusted to us,” he said.
“In that way, at the end of the period we could give full accountability of those resources.”
Dr James also suggested that any money directed to QEH from this levy should be used for cancelling Government’s outstanding debt of over $50 million to the institution, instead of going towards the sizeable amount the Martindale Road facility owes to suppliers.