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EDITORIAL: Long-term financial planning for hospital the key


EDITORIAL: Long-term financial  planning for hospital the key

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THE RECENT DISCLOSURES concerning the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) merited treatment as a matter of urgent public importance, and although we did not have the privilege of such a parliamentary debate, the matter seems to have been accorded, on an administrative level, an urgency appropriate to the circumstances.

As our only tertiary level health care facility on this island, the QEH is therefore a vital resource in which every citizen and visitor on this rock has a deep and abiding interest.

The current concern, like the one raised a few months earlier, is about the shortage of supplies, including some medicines, vital to the well-being of those afflicted with health issues.

To hear as we did earlier this year that the agents of the suppliers of drugs and other clinical supplies were not permitting further credit because of the millions of dollars in unpaid bills owed by the hospital shook most sensible Barbadians out of their complacency.

The hospital seems to have been underfunded and the cash flow challenge was severe enough to cause some operational difficulties.

The recent outcry and the doctors’ decision last week to deal with only emergency or urgent cases was drastic action, but the doctors said it was justified on the basis of what they called “severe and recurrent shortages of supplies”.

Although we are all pleased that there has been an agreement between the doctors and the authorities responsible for the hospital, it is unfortunate that it had to come to such a critical situation before the multi-party meetings could take place in short order to iron out a solution.

Our country must not be seen to be operating on an ad hoc critical situation basis. And we

can do better.

These recurring problems suggested that medium and long-term financial planning for the QEH must take priority over any other serious issues facing the institution if we are to enhance the ability to deliver medical care of the highest ethical quality.

In addition to the commitment to immediately supply of some basic necessities, there are two key points recently agreed which we particularly welcome. The release of $25 million within the next two weeks and a consistent flow of $2 million per week should allow exclusive focus on patient care without the distraction of recurring fiscal issues.

But of greatest interest is the acknowledgement that long-term financial planning for the QEH is an idea whose time has come and we are happy to hear that a concept paper dealing with this matter will be before Cabinet within six weeks.

In an ideal world the provision of health care would be as far removed from the hurly-burly of politics as possible, but we do not live in utopian conditions. Yet it is important that we try to reach some national consensus on how to fund the QEH’s long-term finances since tertiary medical care of premium quality is costly and our resources limited.

The minister, the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners and the QEH must all be congratulated for recognising the urgent national importance of the matter and for so promptly seeking to deal with it.

They will all earn the undying gratitude of Barbadians if they can work together to ensure the most efficient operation at the QEH. It is the surest foundation from which they can deliver the high-quality medical care which we deserve.