Mr. Brantley stated that a number of plans and programmes would be implemented at both the public and institutional health level in an effort to ensure an optimum level of health service delivery for the good physical mental and social well being of the people of Nevis. In the area of Health Systems Development, he made reference to a planned National Health Insurance and policy for overseas referrals.
“The Ministry is cognizant of the need to increase accessibility of secondary and tertiary healthcare services to the population [but] we believe that it is imperative that costing methodologies must be employed before investments are made.
“After spending EC$575,316.92 on overseas medical care in 2012 alone and purchasing a dialysis unit for EC$675,000 without the benefit of a cost/benefit analysis, the Ministry of Health can no longer afford to engage in decision making processes that are oftentimes ill advised…,” he said.
The Health Minister explained that since he took office in late January 2013, the feasibility study which informed the purchase of a dialysis machine and the estimated cost of treatment per person was yet to be located and as such the Nevis public should know that the expensive piece of equipment was ordered by the former NIA in the absence of trained personnel in dialysis; without hiring a vascular surgeon and a nephrologist or anyone capable of servicing the machine.
“The previous Government ordered equipment without bothering to train anyone to properly use this equipment… poor planning Mr President, motivated by politics rather than a sober assessment of the healthcare needs of Nevis…
“The Ministry is now evaluating the best way forward for dialysis in Nevis and is consulting widely with stakeholders and healthcare professionals as to the best approach,” he said.
According to Mr. Brantley, when he learnt the dialysis machine was en route to Nevis and the Ministry had not undertaken any study or analysis, he spoke to the Chief Medical Officer in St. Kitts about the possibility of patients from St. Kitts utilising the service in Nevis which would have helped the Administration defray costs.
However, he said he was very surprised to learn that St. Kitts had recently moved forward with dialysis and both islands had haemo-dialysis available but there was a difference.
“The difference in St. Kitts is that in addition to acquiring the machinery, they have invested in training nurses and the necessary personnel to make dialysis a reality for the Federation,” he said.
Regarding referrals to Cuba and Panama, Mr. Brantley explained that he was satisfied with the level of care offered to patients from Nevis in those friendly countries but the system of referrals and costs needed to be far more transparent and should not be based solely on the political whims and fancy of whoever was Minister of Health.
“Our local healthcare professionals have to be involved in the referral process and the Ministry must know what costs are involved and how much mark-up middlemen are getting,” he said.
The Health Minister also hinted at the implementation of the National Health Insurance Scheme and indicated that the ground work would begin in the coming weeks.
“We look forward to the Household Expenditure Survey that will be conducted within the next few weeks that will lay the foundation for the introduction of a National Health Insurance Scheme.
“Through this mechanism, along with developing guidelines for overseas medical referral, we are confident that we can ensure the financial sustainability of the healthcare system,” he said.