HEALTHCARE has become the number-one issue in St. Lucia, as continued pressure from various groups has been mounting against the Government regarding several facets of the health sector.
In recent weeks, both the SLMDA and the SLP have stated their opposition to the government’s policy regarding healthcare, while the Prime Minister has recently had to deny rumours that members of the Cayman Island Group, currently in talks with the government over the Owen King EU Hospital (OKEU), were demanding that the hospital be handed over to them.
Speaking at the weekly Government press conference, PM Chastanet, in addition to his extensive remarks on the country’s current healthcare problems, addressed the issue of the access to healthcare of the average St. Lucian; stating that every single St. Lucian will have healthcare access, with the implementation of a health insurance policy he said will be a ‘game changer’; a ‘game changer’ which will be implemented by April next year.
Chastanet spoke about a ‘choice’ that his Administration had to make between increasing the NIC contributions, and implementing a health insurance policy.
He said that the cabinet did not support the proposal to increase NIC contributions, due to the fact that this policy would not, as he put it, improve the access to healthcare of the average St. Lucian citizen.
He said rather that cabinet is in the midst of formulating a national health insurance policy, in which every citizen will be empowered to have access to healthcare.
“Cabinet was not in agreement with that; [increasing NIC contributions];” said Chastanet.
He stated that the reason that proposal was opposed by Cabinet was “because we felt that while that was able to generate sufficient funds to be able to cover the healthcare costs, it would not make it accessible by the average St. Lucian.”
He expounded on this, saying that even though the increase in NIC contributions would improve the quality of hospitals, that improvement would not be accessed by many people.
“So people who currently don’t have access to healthcare, by putting on the [increase in] NIC contribution and improving the quality of the hospitals, they’re still not gonna have access.” Chastanet said.
He said for that reason Cabinet has “now been moving to introduce a national healthcare insurance policy.”
The Prime Minister in speaking about his Government’s intention with this national healthcare insurance policy was adamant, even repeating himself, that with this policy in place, “every single St. Lucian will have health insurance.”
“What we want to do, we want to create a system where every single Saint Lucian, let me repeat that, every single St Lucian will have healthcare insurance in this country; which means that no longer do St. Lucians have to consider or question whether they should go to see the doctor or whether they’re gonna have enough money for the medicine afterwards.” Chastanet stated.
Chastanet went on to call this proposed healthcare insurance policy, “a game changer”, which “now empowers every single St. Lucian to have access to healthcare.”
He also said that “the goal has been to have healthcare insurance legislation approved by the end of this year and to be able to implement the insurance policy programme by April.”