Letters & Opinion

Healthcare Afflicted By The Social Media Virus

Social media is here to stay, for better and for worse! We have to live with it, and the debate on its utility will continue, whether we like it or not. It has permeated every aspect of our lives, and so it is with healthcare!

The infection of healthcare during this past week has demonstrated one of the undesirable outcomes of this affliction, with to-ing and fro-ing between GOSL, party political pundits, alleged nursing staff, and assorted social media posts. Claims, counterclaims and denials abound.

It is easy to blame social media for this turn of events. However, it can be argued that the lack of transparency in official (GOSL) pronouncements surrounding the future of healthcare provision in St. Lucia is responsible for the confusion currently engulfing the nation.

It is an open secret that GOSL has been discussing our future healthcare landscape with Health Care Cayman Islands (HCCI) for some time. Rumors abound about the nature of these discussions, including the ‘threat’ of dismissal facing the nursing staff at Victoria Hospital. This fear is perhaps founded on what appears to have been the Cayman experience of staffing the HCCI facility with Indian doctors and nurses.

Another possible area of concern is that the HCCI model is geared towards medical tourism, not public healthcare provision. Questions thus arise: Will HCCI alter its business model to account for local circumstances in the public domain? What are the implications for local patients who cannot pay charges currently in force locally? Will the proposed universal insurance scheme be able to address this question? In a recent TV address to the nation, the PM suggested that one benefit of an HCCI partnership would be a reduction in the cost of pharmaceuticals purchased on our behalf. Does this mean that St. Lucia will withdraw from the joint OECS pharmaceutical purchasing regime? Are pharmaceuticals the most important item in healthcare provision?

It should be noted that in addition to the social media ‘discourse’, the talk show brigades also play a part in the confusion, as do an un-inquiring media. Social media will not extract the relevant information from the competent authority, but investigative journalism can.

We should dismiss, for instance, the assertion that the doubters of the GOSL ‘clarification’ by citizens who question that assertion, are refusing to accept the results of the 2016 election! Really?

The foregoing questions are by no means exhaustive, but a good place to start to enlighten us would be to examine the relationship between HCCI and the government of the Cayman Islands.

As an old fashioned Crown Colony or British Overseas Territory, information with a ‘public interest’ dimension will be accessible to an enquiring public. Such publicly available information, however, suggests that we should not follow the HCCI/CI model.

GOSL needs to either provide full disclosure, or reasons for its manifest economy with essential information.

(Malkadi Poutoute)

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