Leader of the Opposition in the House of Parliament, Dr Godwin Friday has called for a National Health Insurance Programme to be put in place to help residents cover the cost of accessing needed health care.
Friday made the call as he contributed to debate on a bill tabled by Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves on October 17 that sought the approval of the Parliament to obtain a loan of US$30 million from the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) to help finance a project to revamp the Health services in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
“…What ought to be done is that we add a component of national health care insurance to our publicly available and administered public insurance system where we spread the cost and the risk to the entire community.”
The Opposition leader said the financial cost to obtain health care should not be “just left up to a family that if somebody in the family gets ill you either let them die or the rest of the family bears the cost of helping that member”.
He noted that while some people have means and can travel abroad to seek medical care the majority of the population “have to make do with what is available” here.
The Member of Parliament for the Northern Grenadines sprinkled his contribution with personal encounters he has had with people in the Grenadines and referred to an unemployed resident of Union who requires kidney dialysis but is unable to meet the cost and has to rely on friends to help him out.
People “are simply condemned to die if they don’t have the means…I think a national health insurance plan that everybody contributes a small amount to but not everyone needs it the same time but it will be there for when you need it for most of the basic care that we need…this way everyone contributes…” Friday said.
During tabling to Parliament of the ‘Strengthening Health System Resilience Project (Loan Authorisation) Bill, 2022 Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves pointed out that Vincentians pay between US$15-20 million a year accessing health care abroad.
He said the Acute Referral Hospital, which is to be constructed at Arnos Vale under the Health Systems Project will offer a range of tertiary level services not now available here and which Vincentians seek to obtain overseas.
Friday was among members of the Opposition who offered support for the Health Systems bill “to make things better for the people of this country,” he said.