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Health Financing a Major Concern, Health Minister Jn Baptiste

By Reginald Andrew
Image of Moses “Musa” Jn. Baptiste
Hon. Moses JnBaptiste, Minister for Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs,

While providing an update on the current status of the state’s health care services, Health and Wellness Minister, Moses Jn. Baptiste said ‘health financing’ remains a major concern for the authorities as they seek measures to help remedy this situation.

Toward this end, he said, government is taking steps to initiate a Health Fund and a Roving Health Team to help address and better manage the myriad of problems in the health sector.

Speaking to reporters outside parliament, this week, the health minister said over the years the country has experienced various forms of ‘crises’ in the health sector.

Jn. Baptiste noted that government also has to deal with the crucial issue of accessing or sourcing the required number of professionals and qualified nurses; since adequate financing is not readily available for the authorities to fully deal with this matter.

“It is very clear that for a while, we have not financed health in the way which we should,” declared J. Baptiste.

“So, I think one of the first steps is for us to continue to look at what is required. There are several studies that we have been looking at … and now that we’re back in government, we are now implementing some of the recommendations that have been around for a very long time,” he added.

“So, it’s very clear that health care financing is one of the main issues, because you clearly cannot run a hospital complex if you don’t have adequate financing,” Jn. Baptiste said.

He added, “You can’t run the St Jude Hospital or even primary care …you need at least a minimum level of financing to do that and we are working, we are trying to see how best we can get the best model for financing health care.”

Noting the dire need for better health care services and aid to assist the less privileged in the community, the minister disclosed that cabinet has agreed to establish a Health Fund. He said this Fund will help support the proposed universal health care initiative.

In an effort to bring solace to citizens in dealing with the country’s ‘health blues’, Jn. Baptiste added: “And that’s another aspect …but even before this comes on stream, there are certain things that must be done now.  Over the last few months, we have initiated a Roving Health Team of professionals …and they are going around all of what we traditionally call our health centers, they are going around the country to determine what are the basic things, the basic processes, basic pieces of equipment that are missing. Over the last few months we have improved the conditions and also the procedures, and the processes at several of our primary health care facilities.”

The major components in focus, he said, include Health care financing “and we would need a national response to this”. Secondly, he added, “how do we adequately resource our health care facilities, in terms of human resources, doctors, nurses, the professionals and so, and then how do we deal with what we have now.”

Bearing in mind that the authorities have had to take on the added role of combatting the COVID-19 virus and its related consequences, Jn. Baptiste said, it is a serious problem that must be tackled head-on.

He said government is looking at the various problems as it relates to the OKEU Hospital, the St Jude Hospital and other factors. “We have received the complaints and we are hearing the cries from the public and we are listening and we are taking action,” he added.

In the wider context, and with the Organization of Eastern Caribbean Sates (OECS) moving towards putting a ‘cap’ on the price of medicinal supplies in the sub-region, will such a development help with more equitable provision of health care?

The minister explained that the OECS deals with medication and the procurement of medication as a unit, though some countries still procure medication individually for certain aspects or certain areas.

However, the OECS has the authority to oversee components, such as; the Procurement Process, “which is dealt with as an OECS region and all of the decisions come out of that”.

He explained, “They negotiate prices together and sometimes when the prices go up they find strategies to see how we can get the best prices for our people.”

Jn. Baptiste adds that, “They always work together to come up with the best prices …but we don’t do so as an individual unit, we work together with the OECS.”

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