HEALTH care was among the many topics Prime Minister Allen Chastanet elaborated on during Monday evening’s press conference to mark his administration’s first 100 days in office. And with an amnesty on unpaid hospital fees set to take effect soon, tackling health care on a broader spectrum seems more progressive an approach than simply letting people off the hook.
Describing the current system of health care as “unsustainable”, the Prime Minister said health insurance needs to become a priority. The subject is so crucial that Chastanet is considering the OECS region having blanket coverage so as to reduce individual costs region-wide.
Undoubtedly, health care has virtually taken a back seat at our ill-equipped wellness centres and under-staffed hospitals. Public sentiments about the level of care offered at these institutions have over the years been less than favourable. Once in a blue moon, however, someone attests to having had a satisfactory experience after visiting one such institution.
But, like the adage goes, a nation’s health is its wealth. However, far too often citizens are forced to rely on private health institutions to remedy the most basic ailments because the level of service at public health institutions is nothing to shout about. Choosing the route of the private health institutions, some find, often works out better albeit pricier.
Granted that the St. Jude Hospital and Owen King-EU Hospital are still in recovery phase, the issue of accessing health care at public institutions should not be a disastrous experience. While many strides have been made to upgrade facilities, many patients still find walking into wellness centres and hospitals an unwelcome experience. That needs to change or people are going to continue getting sicker when they visit such institutions.
While the amnesty of unpaid hospital fees might seem “a humanitarian gesture”, according to the Prime Minister, people must also understand that running a sustainable heath care sector – public or private – costs money. As such, the National Insurance Corporation (NIC) might want to do more by investing more in the health care of those who funds its coffers. There seems to be a growing disparity with the benefits received from that scheme compared to the amounts paid into it.
Nevertheless, people also need to share their part of the responsibility in ensuring that the nation remains healthy by guarding their good health jealously. One would hate to think that an amnesty on millions of dollars in hospital fees becomes the norm because system like that can understandably fracture a nation’s coffers.