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Insurance and prostate cancer


GEOFFREY SIMPSON

Insurance and prostate cancer

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I would like to draw your attention to two issues.

The Minister of Health has stated that Barbadians need to get medical insurance. Is the minister not aware that private medical insurance is well beyond the reach of thousands of working Bajans. The cost is prohibitive, especially when families are already struggling to pay utility bills and buy essential food items. The lucky ones are those who can sign on to their employers’ group plan, if it exists.

Several, if not all insurance companies discriminate on age and “pre-existing medical conditions”, even if the condition was thirty years ago and well cured. People over the age of 65 are deemed uninsurable by companies in Barbados, if applying for cover for the first time. This does not happen in developed countries such as Britain or the United States. In addition, there are laws and regulations which prevent such discriminatory practices.

The second point is on urological services in Barbados and the rising cases of prostate cancer. If one can afford to pay a private urologist, then treatment is readily available. For those men who cannot afford private consultations and treatment, they are faced with an extremely long wait in line at Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH). First to be seen by the consultant urologist and then to join another line for a treatment regime. This takes years, judging by a relative’s experience. The wait is often so long that the men die whilst awaiting treatment.

The only aspect of treatment that is readily available is the simple prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, which can be done at Family Planning Association or other agencies. Even a simple PSA at a private consultant is too much for a poor man to afford.

In other words, if you have a prostate condition and cannot pay, you are doomed to die pretty soon. It’s a grim fact of life or rather death, for the poor man.

There needs to be a clear audit by an independent source such as the King’s Fund UK, to look into the provision of all areas of secondary care at the QEH and primary care at the polyclinics. The revelations will be astounding for a country that wants to be a First World country by 2020. It’s a joke.

 

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