A National Health Insurance is in the making.
Outspoken trade unionist, Chester Humphrey who is the President General of the Technical and Allied Workers Union (TAWU), has been given responsibility by the new Keith Mitchell-led government to lead the process.
Humphrey was selected to head a Committee for the proposed National Health Insurance and to assist Government in putting the necessary plans in place for its implementation.
According to Health Minister, Clarice Modeste-Curwen plans for the insurance will be outlined during the 2013 Budget of Revenue and Expenditure, which was delivered to Parliament on Tuesday.
Addressing last week’s post-Cabinet press briefing, Minister Modeste-Curwen said that plans for the establishment of the Insurance should be completed by June and that a number of areas would be looked at including where monies are already being collected for services such as lab and x-ray fees.
The senior government minister stated that those who can pay for health services should be made to pay including those with health insurance.
The government minister pointed out that the impending introduction of a national health insurance is one of the ways in which government can generate much needed monies to sustain the health sector.
“One thing that was very clear, one very cross-cutting issue was how do we pay for all of this, and by implication, how do we ensure that there is a sustainable supply or provision of these things that we’re talking about in terms of the medication and in terms of equipment and so on”, she said.
“The idea is we have to find ways to get our Grenadian public or Grenadian citizens to financially contribute”, she added in making specific reference to the need to assist the elderly who have made their contributions to society and no longer are in a position to care for themselves.
The minister recalled that government had tried with some varying success over the years to assist these persons but sometimes fall short on the commitment.
Modeste-Curwen told reporters that the quality and delivery of health care service in Grenada is not what the Grenadian people deserve nor where the Government will like to see it.
“The reality is we must look at income generating … how we can generate revenues and one of the best ways to do it is through a national health insurance, why … a NHI would collect monies when persons are working and are able, and prevent the necessity of collecting monies at the point of delivery of health care”, she said.
The Health Minister said her ministry will be working closely with the Ministry of Social Development in order to ensure that the less fortunate do not fall through the crack.
She said the Government is committed to providing basic medical supplies, basic supplies for laboratory use to the population and the establishment of the health insurance scheme within the next few months in order to improve heath care for citizens.
During the press briefing, the two-month-old New National Party (NNP) administration announced that the medical situation in the country has been “appeased” somewhat following months of medical shortages at the island’s General Hospital and health centers around the island.
Patients in need of medical assistance are faced with severe shortages in the health sector and Minister Modeste-Curwen said that the Ministry of Health is working to curb the problem particularly in the area of medical supplies.
She admitted that Government has not been able to conduct blood transfusions at the St. George’s General Hospital, as there were no re-agents to do the necessary blood testing.
This problem, she said was further compounded as there was no Pathologist at the hospital as the lone one had to leave the island due to an emergency.
In the circumstances, specific testing had to be done privately at St George’s University (SGU) or St Augustine Medical Services (SAMS).
The Pathologist has since returned and the female government minister said they have requested two additional pathologists from Cuba while looking for scholarships to train locals in that specialized medical field.
Minister Modeste-Curwen announced that Government owes approximately 15 medical suppliers in excess of $3.5 million and these suppliers are reluctant to provide additional supplies to Grenada on credit until at least part payment is made to them.
She indicated that the only supplier willing to provide a quantity of supplies to Grenada at this time is the OECS Pharmaceutical Procurement Services (OECS/PPS).
She said that since taking office following the February 19 General Election, the new Keith Mitchell-led administration has handed over an undisclosed amount of monies to suppliers in March in order for the local medical facilities to get supplies such as medication and laboratory re-agents used for blood testing.
It was revealed that the last payments made to the OECS Pharmaceutical Procurement Services (OECS/PPS) by the former government were made in September and November of $1 million and $800,000,00 respectively.