August 16, 2011
Queen Elizabeth Hospital pulls plug on non-nationals

Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment Cecil Mckie says that more thought should have been given by Barbados health officials before they pulled the plug on overseas medical referrals.{{more}}

Mckie, speaking to SEARCHLIGHT on Monday about the decision by the hospital administration of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in Barbados to place an immediate ban on such service, pending a review, comes at a time when efforts are being made to bring the Caribbean community closer together.

“This is a decision that I think the Barbados authorities did not think through sufficiently,” Mckie said yesterday, Monday, August 15, after he addressed the opening ceremony of the three-day National Non-Communicable Disease Summit, taking place at the conference room of the National Insurance Services building.

Now, we are trying to promote integration in the Caribbean and if we are to integrate, we cannot integrate in some areas and not in others; and if we are looking at the free movement of our professionals and other nationals throughout the region, it means that we also have to ensure that the service is available in the region are also available to every individual that moves.

So, how could we be asking our nationals to move from one country to another freely and yet the critical services that are available in that country are restricted to the nationals of that country alone? That does not follow logic and that does not make sense.

How do you explain that you are a country that depends heavily on tourism? Are you saying therefore that tourists that come into your country would not be afforded medical services?”

According to the Barbados Today, an online newspaper, a memorandum dated August 9, 2011, signed by QEH Chief Executive Officer Dexter James, was sent to all consultants at the hospital and copied to the Director of Medical Services, Senior Medical Social Work and Director of Financial Services; it stated that with immediate effect, admission of private overseas referrals will be suspended until such time as the policy is revised.

The letter indicated that recent events in which there have been admissions of private patients from overseas without adhering to the custom and practice has led to the lockout and subsequent policy review, which will be completed by September 30 this year.

The QEH is a referral centre for patients of the OECS, whose medical institutions do not usually have the level of care, equipment and facilities.

According to the Barbados Today, in recent weeks, management of the hospital have voiced their concerns about the way people from overseas have been admitted there.

Recently, James had said that officials were concerned that medical practitioners from some Caribbean countries appeared to be referring patients to the institution without adequate notice.

Minister Mckie, while agreeing that procedures should be followed, said that a simple matter of discussion with countries which are at fault should have taken place. He added that he hopes that the Barbados authorities would rethink their decision in order to allow critical services for non-nationals.

“Is it a matter that the countries are not aware of the procedures that should be followed? I think discussion can solve that challenge quite easily.

I am sort of confident that they will reverse that decision and if it is a case of procedure being the challenge then we can all work together to correct the procedures and protocols that needs to be put in place.”

The minister said that locally, discussions will be held in various governmental departments, before an official response to what he described as a ‘bump and hurdle’ would be forthcoming.