Thursday, April 18, 2024

Health Ministry outlines major plans in Estimates

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The Ministry of Health and Wellness will institute 34 sub-programmes at the cost of over $265 million, as Barbados seeks to address challenges which currently exist in the sector.

Speaking during day five of the Estimates Debate in Parliament, Minister of Health and Wellness, The Most Honourable Dr Jerome Walcott, outlined several issues which needed funding as Barbados sought to transition from acute pandemic care toward being a nation that lives with COVID-19.

Chief among those were the recurring issues at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs), mental health reform, new and recurring infectious diseases, the global threat of antimicrobial resistance and identification of a sustainable financial health model.

After the conclusion of the comprehensive five-year Capital Expenditure plan, the Ministry is seeking a loan of just over $130 million. The loan will facilitate the replacement of equipment and infrastructural works needed to improve the island’s primary source of healthcare, QEH over the next five years.

Discussions with financial institutions have started and are expected to be completed soon. Additionally there are eight capital projects which amount to the tune of 31 million euros to be funded by the European Investment Bank. Among them are a new waste management project for the QEH, morgue refurbishment, supply and installation of an operational theatre, a hospital information system and a new hospital laboratory.

Walcott said that the QEH had undergone some improvements in recent times. Five hundred cataract surgeries were performed by the Ophthalmology Department between last August and January after they commenced a programme to clear the backlog of cases. After a hiatus of 10 years, the Orthopaedic department restarted knee and hip replacement surgeries last November and December. They have also seen a decrease in readmission of vulnerable patients and launched a pre-anaesthesia clinic to help with cancelation of surgeries due to patient-related surgeries.

However, the Accident and Emergency (A&E) department remains a problem.

Walcott said: “We hear complaints about A&E and a lot of them are justified. I don’t believe all are, but it has to deal with communication, people need to know what’s going on with them. We look at the people who have been assessed as ones and twos in the triage list which goes from one to five as the priorities, because they are deemed as the priorities. The expansion (to the department) needs to be completed, but in the interim, we need to work on the matter of communication.”

Minister in the Ministry of Health Dr Sonia Browne echoed his sentiments saying: “The majority of cases coming to A&E are in fact the non-urgent or non-emergency cases. There are a lot of cases where people showing up there could be treated outside like in a polyclinic. What might be perceived as an emergency or urgent matter might not be in the purview of a doctor.”

However, there is an idea to solve the issue.

Browne continued saying: “What we are planning to revive is what we call the Minor Cases Unit. If a person comes in with what we would consider to be minor, they would be seen, treated and discharged so that someone with a heart attack wouldn’t be pushed to the back of the line. There is also a delay in getting people from downstairs to upstairs bearing in mind that we are operating on three floors of an A&E department. “

There are plans to increase the capacity of the Medical Intensive Care Unit so that patients can be furloughed to those areas. It is also thought that medical staff being retrained to better assess patients and their medical needs would increase efficiency. (JC)

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