The Keith Mitchell Government has announced the start of technical work on the highly anticipated National Health Insurance (NHI), which seeks to make universal health care accessible to all Grenadians.
Addressing the soft launch of the scheme last week Wednesday at the Board Room of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), Health Minister, Nicholas Steele spoke of an undefined “basket of services,” which will be made available to Grenadians who are registered for NHI.
According to the Health Minister the NHI will “ensure that there is the right amount of doctors, nurses (and) healthcare facilities, to a standard that is expected by the population (and) to make sure that within the system, there is accountability, not just on the billing side, but also on the level and quality of service being delivered.”
He stressed that of great significance is the keeping of electronic medical records, a process, which has already begun.
“The process of registration on the electronic medical record has started…the Ministry of Health has put a system in place and has started registering individuals who access healthcare in Grenada,” Minister Steele said.
“In the National Health Insurance system, we will be registering individuals before they have the need to access health insurance in Grenada,” he said.
The NIS, which is the management structure that has maintained pension funds since its inception in 1984, has been given the responsibility of managing the health insurance, which will be operated from a secretariat that is currently being established there.
Health Minister Steele sought to assure the general public that there will be no co-mingling of pension funds with health insurance.
“There would be absolutely no co-mingling,” he declared.
His words were echoed by Implementation Minister Emmalin Pierre, who said the law will also be tweaked to facilitate the effective management of NHI funds.
“I am convinced that the NIS is ready, they are capable and they are quite efficient enough to do a good job at this,” she said.
Director of NIS, Alfred Logie, also expressed confidence that “the NIS, in the same way through the collection of funds and through the effective management of those funds have been able to meet the needs of workers in the winter years, we believe that similarly, we could put together a national health insurance programme that would be accessible and affordable to all Grenadians.
“We bring to the table many years of institutional knowledge and expertise on similar matters. We understand clearly that national health insurance is different to a national social program but we are confident that they are sufficiently common that in a small country like this, it makes good sense to harness the commonalities, rather than create a new bureaucratic structure.
“We have already established a focal point in the NIS, the office of the Deputy Director has been charged with that responsibility… we believe we should have a small staff of 4 persons dedicated to this… (the deputy director), an administrative officer, a communication officer and a secretary,” he said, adding that “if there is need for anyone else, we (the NIS staff) are right here.
“Our staff of 70 or so persons are ready and willing to be deployed at short notice should that be necessary,” he told the gathering.
He disclosed that over the next 8 to 12 months the “financing of this stage of work would be done through grant funds” and “that it is extremely important that every cent is effectively utilised.”
Chairman of the NIS, Ron Antoine also expressed confidence in the ability of NIS to manage the health insurance.
He affirmed that while “we have what we think right now is a very effective team as we start this process, we do have a very long way to go…”.
“… We are committed to making it a success,” he said, adding, “and I believe we have all the factors available to push and drive this through.”
Also addressing the soft launch was Head of the Health Economics Unit at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor Karl Theodore, who has been providing consulting services to the government on the new healthcare system.
According to Professor Theodore, the proposed basket of services would “reflect what the health needs of the country are,” and would help improve “the quality of life of the nation.”
He pledged continued support to the Government of Grenada throughout the implementation of NHI pointing out that, “the NHI is coming to change how the (country’s) health system works and is coming with an information system, which would provide the capacity to manage it in a way, which controls our cost (and) enables us to monitor what the results are so that we could monitor the quality of care (that is being provided).”
“We are part of the university, which is committed to support the government of this country to produce a better policy framework and to help them to implement measures that would help to improve the quality of life of the nation,” he said.