Too much freeness!

Support for the imposition of new taxes on health care

Two medical doctors and a hospital administrator are recommending that Government should treat public health as a productive sector, apply user fees on careless people who fall sick, and impose a tax on fatty foods which undermine human health.

Their proposals were put forward Wednesday night at a discussion sponsored by the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, where non-communicable diseases (NCDs) came under the microscope.

Dr Alifa Samuels
Dr Alifa Samuels

Dr Alifa Samuels, director of the Chronic Disease Research Centre and feature presenter on the topic, Accelerating the NCD Agenda, pointed out that foods such as French fries, which increasingly were becoming part of the regular diet of some Barbadians, should be taxed higher to make them less attractive to consumers.

Family physician Dr Colin Alert proposed that when persons flout health advice, they should be made to pay their subsequent medical bills. Queen Elizabeth Hospital Chief Executive Officer Dr Dexter James said health care should be treated like tourism.

Dr Colin Alert
Dr Colin Alert

James’ complaint was that his institution, the island’s main public health care provider, did not attract the attention of the Minister of Finance in the way the productive industries did at Budget time.

“Generally, when ministers sit around the table to discuss the whole prioritization of budgets, we have not yet found a way in which we could become [even] with tourism a[nd] all the other agencies that generate revenue,” James said. “So we go with the same old arguments about patients and how many diabetics we have in the country, and the Minister of Finance says, ‘so what?’”

The QEH administrator contended that the voice of health care will not be loud enough at budget planning time, “unless we could change that debate and to the argument that says: for every diabetic we have in the country, how does it impact GDP? What is the loss in productivity by such persons?”

Dr Dexter James
Dr Dexter James

James said Barbadians, mostly between 35 and 45 years of age, were falling sick at the monthly rate of 45 strokes and 11 heart attacks.

“That data needs to be translated into what extent our productive labour force [is being] compromised by the NCDs. There has got to be some costings around it,” he said.

Dr Alert said that cutting health care costs was a challenge to behaviour.

“In our system, the free universal health care system, we implore people that their health is their responsibility, but yet if somebody drinks, smokes, eats badly and gets sick, they are offered free health care, free medication, free hospital care,” he stated. “So how can you discourage them from doing unhealthy things, if by virtue of their bad behaviour, they then get lots of freeness?”

Seeking a solution, Dr Samuels asked Dr Alert: “If they do bad things, we should charge them for the care?” “Yes,” he responded.

Dr Samuels saw the remedy in punitive taxes on fatty foods that would have the double effect of dissuading Barbadians from buying them, and having the funds raised from such taxation channeled towards the health care of those who use the unhealthy foods anyhow.

As an example, she said: “Let’s tax French fries, because just like tobacco, the French fries are going to give you a heart attack down the road, so we may as well start saving money. Little by little, Government will start saving it for you, so that you can pay for the heart attack when it comes.

“We need to tax it not only to get the money but to help encourage people not to eat it.”

Dr Samuels added: “We need higher taxes on unhealthy foods, including a tax on fatty foods.” However, she was at pains to emphasize: “I did not say to tax fat people.” 

9 Responses to Too much freeness!

  1. Katrina Busby
    Katrina Busby June 18, 2016 at 4:29 am

    More tax!!!?? My goodness!!

  2. Kearn Williams
    Kearn Williams June 18, 2016 at 5:14 am

    I real frighten fuh them doctors at QEH and I never study medicine so gine shut my mouth before I end up there some day and get victimize. U know as soon as u speak ur mind bout hey u r hated for life

  3. Alex Alleyne June 18, 2016 at 6:05 am

    “Apply user fees on careless people who fall sick”. These are the most stupid words I have seen listed in any reading material. It seems like most of you come up with brain lost when you go up on the hill at UWI.
    You guys should be coming up with ideas and discussing diabetes
    in stead of you all chopping off persons limbs at will and have the Caribbean seen as “stumpy region”.
    Another set of you think it is wise to TAX everyone up to their eyeballs.
    Just look at the bad foods that are imported into Barbados/ Caribbean along with all the booze . Some of you even spend time talking of making CANNABIS legal that will put more people in the mad house. To eat healthy you need to spend $1000.00 per week for a family of 4. To collect some funds , just put a fee of $1.00 per visit to the clinics for persons age over 18 to under 65.

  4. Mike June 18, 2016 at 6:47 am

    I believe government should carry out a study on all the mobile food retailers and restaurants around this country who apply their trade by selling fatty foods to the public. Government should also hold the distributor sector responsible for importing these unhealthy foods to the population and give them incentives to sell fruits, vegetables and other healthy food way less than what is today. NGOs should also do a study on healthy fast foods and given incentives when they do. Enough said.

  5. harry turnover June 18, 2016 at 7:12 am

    Talk for the occasion is what it is. When people got to get up and speak ,they HAVE to find SOMETHING to talk about.
    Some talk sense others NONSENSE….a whole load of SH8…..”Apply user fees on careless people who fall sick”. as though Doctors would know if you get sick through carelessness or not.@ Alex Alleyne….AGREE 100% with your last sentence I would also add ….and another $1.00 for the medication.
    At the clinic near me,I see more able bodied people than old people line up to see the Doctors most of the time with a few often grumbling ” the Doctor teking very long,he en know I got to get back to WORK “

  6. Ejd June 18, 2016 at 7:55 am

    Add to that the doctors’ fees that killing we.

  7. Carson C Cadogan June 18, 2016 at 8:58 am

    Boy oh boy!!!!

    When these two Doctors were medical students and receiving FREE medical Education at the taxpayers expense, there was nothing wrong “……….with too much freeness”at that time!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Coralita June 19, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Choices, choices, choices!!!

    People digging their own graves with the table fork. People eat for taste not nutrition.

    I personally know of people who can eat better but who choose to eat KFC at least 4+ times a week. Thing is, I heard other persons commenting about their habit, which means it is very noticeable.

    I believe there are those who would like to eat better but are financially challenged to do so. Also, it does not help that families today seems to think it is fashionable to eat out rather then cook and have family meal time at home. People also need to learn to cook, full stop!!!

    I have been an advocate advising and encouraging people to eat better and very often you hear people say, “yah gine still dead”. People are so ignorant that they don’t realise that no one has control over death but you have control over the quality of life you live while you are alive. Sad thing is, when they become ill it is a different story and they are the ones suffering.

    Life is about choices.

  9. Natalie Murray June 20, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    Smh…..The housing allowance that you receiving on the backs of the tax payers of this country is what I would call free. Somebody research his housing allownce….enough to pay 3 maids at the end of the month. In my mind that is what you call free. You want sending back to Mount Marry.


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