Health cuts may prove ‘costly’
GOVERNMENT HAS been warned that its planned cuts in health care spending as well as lingering problems may take a toll on human lives.
Former Minister of Health Dr Jerome Walcott issued the warning in the Senate yesterday during debate on the Appropriation Bill, to which the Estimates Of Revenue And Expenditure are the schedule.
He said that while the Government’s side spoke of cuts across the health service as “savings”, there was a human cost which was being ignored.
The allocation to the Barbados Drug Service was being cut by $3 million, but “at what cost to human life and morbidity”? Walcott asked.
He said there was talk that some patients at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) might be asked to pay for dialysis and warned that those who could not afford it “will abscond from the system”, their condition would worsen and they might die.
He also told senators the same thing could happen to other patients who could not get medication because of shortages or prices were too high.
Walcott charged that while Government was talking about improvements in the area of health, there had been an increase in the number of strokes suffered by Barbadians and drug and other shortages had persisted at the QEH.
He said the budget of the Medical Aid Scheme, which facilitates patients going abroad for medical care, had been cut from $3.5 million to $1.7 million.
He also told senators the budget for the alternative care of the elderly programme, under which senior citizens abandoned at the QEH were transferred to the Geriatric Hospital and other facilities, was reduced by $500 000.
The Ministry of Health’s budget for promoting healthy lifestyles in the face of concerns about the impact of chronic non-communicable diseases, at $825 000 last year, had been cut by more than $400 000, according to Walcott.
Despite worries about the incidence of leptospirosis, dengue fever and recently chikungunya, the ministry’s Vector Control Unit’s allocation had been trimmed by $300 000 and some staff sent home, he said.
“You slashed the ambulance service by $800 000,” he said in a remark aimed at Government.
In his wide-ranging speech, Walcott charged that a combination of Government’s inaction and the wrong policies had created problems for health and other sectors.
He said tourism was one area where Government’s failure was glaring because while other Caribbean countries were reporting significant growth, Barbados had little to show.
According to Walcott, Government needed to stop blaming the international economic conditions for its shortcomings.