The Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government is one step closer to making the National Health Insurance (NHI) Programme a reality in the country.
The Secretariat for the programme was launched last week Tuesday by government which also signed a deal with the St. Augustine arm of the University of the West Indies (UWI) to provide technical support for NHI.
Both events were witnessed by representatives from local Trade Unions, the Nurses Association, Insurance Companies and Ministry of Health.
In addressing the gathering at the launch, Minister of Health, Social Security and International Business, Nickolas Steele said the ultimate goal of NHI is to improve health care in Grenada.
“I think today marks a major milestone in which we are putting a system together, National Health Insurance, that will guarantee that health care is accessible and affordable to all Grenadians”, he remarked.
Minister Steele stated that the intention of the scheme is to “guarantee that the necessary resources are channeled directly to the health system, national health system, and that those very health systems are improved to meet the expectations of the people”.
“We are mortal beings but we should not accept that fact that because we are mortal beings (we should) accept any failures or shortfalls (in the Health system) and we recognise that there is a lot more to be done”, he said.
The senior government minister termed the occasion as the “marking of a milestone” in which what he referred to as “a significant team” came together to help open a Secretariat to help the country to look into the immediate future.
He spoke of being confident that Grenadians will have a National Health Insurance that will allow them “to truly have health care accessible and affordable to all of us”.
The NIS has been appointed as the Implementing Agency for NHI and was responsible for the retrofitting and equipping of the Secretariat through funds supplied by government.
According to Deputy Director of NIS, Dorset Cromwell the Secretariat will act as a liaison and a coordinator with key stakeholders such as the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Implementation, UWI Consultants and other Service providers to put the scheme in place.
“The Secretariat will also liaise with UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) for the disbursement of funds and to ensure that the governance arrangement that has been put in place is followed”, he said.
“The Secretariat will initiate an IT consultancy for securing the necessary IT infrastructure to facilitate this process going forward”, he added.
Cromwell gave assurances that there will be “a clear separation of the funds” belonging to NIS and NHI.
“…There will be no co-mingling of funds that is currently collected for our pension benefits, other benefits that we currently receive from NIS and that of what is going to be collected on the National Health Insurance”, he said.
It was disclosed during the NHI launch that US$633,916.00 in grant funding was secured by government from India, Brazil, and South Africa through a joint funding agency that deals with poverty alleviation.
Cromwell disclosed that the funds will be used for the establishment and funding of the operations of the NHI Secretariat.
However, he said the money can only be disbursed through the UNDP since the body is to be used as the Executing Agency of funds received for the functions of the Secretariat.
“It will ensure that the appropriate governance arrangement is in place,” he remarked.
The UWI St. Augustine campus has been contracted to provide the technical support needed for the functioning of the Secretariat.
Professor Karl Theodore who signed the contract on behalf of the university said for over 20 years, UWI has been working with countries to implement National Health Insurance schemes.
He pointed out that those countries which are doing better than others in the area of healthcare are the ones that are offering National Health Insurance for their people.
He said that Grenada should be very proud to be heading in that direction.
Professor Theodore stated that Grenada will be looking at Universal Health Coverage under the NHI through a Social Health Insurance mechanism.
He said: “When we talk about Universal Health Coverage, it means specific things – that the health will be available and that nobody will be in financial distress. Social Health Insurance mechanism is a mechanism where we create one pool of funds for the whole country – a pool of funds that will finance health and everyone in the country. All citizens, all residents will have access to this pool when the need arises.
“The purpose of the NHI is not just to fund the health system, the purpose of the NHI is to change the way the health system works…we want the health system to provide better care to everybody, to provide more care and better care for more people…” he added.
Under NHI, nationals will be able to access a basket of health services once they are registered with the entity.