Submitted by M*M*
What is the definitive policy action that the Government has in place for our Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH)? This question remains unanswered in my humble opinion at today’s date. Let me explain to you why this is the case.
Before the DLP came to office in January 2008, then Opposition MP Richard Sealy proposed the much talked about Rescue QEH Plan. The intimate details of this plan were never presented but it seemed like a catchy phrase or buzzword to throw at us the tax-paying public that definitive and critical action would be taken to improve the QEH.
After the change of government in January 2008, the then newly appointed Minister of Health Dr. David Estwick publicly announced that a new hospital would be constructed and he cited amongst other reasons, the limited room for expansion of the QEH, its position in a low lying flood plain and the cost involved in revitalizing an aging plant as opposed to constructing a new one amongst others. Within two weeks of Dr. Estwick’s pronouncement, Prime Minister David Thompson refuted this saying that no decision had been taken as yet and that a decision would have to be made by his Cabinet as to whether to build a new (and second) hospital or to revitalize the QEH thus pouring cold water on Dr. Estwick’s earlier statement.
Mr. Donville Inniss was later named the new Health Minister in a Cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Thompson with Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner being reassigned to Parliamentary Secretary in the Minister of Health with special responsibility for the QEH. The Barbados Advocate of September 29th, 2010 (page 9 story – “Government Aiming to make QEH a 21st century healthcare provider”) is reporting that Senator Sandiford-Garner at a DLP St. Andrew branch meeting said that the government’s efforts right now are focused on stabilizing the QEH and finding ways to refurbish and retool it. Senator Sandiford-Garner also admitted that Government had no money but stated that they had said that they would not be building another hospital. This is also in direct contrast to former Health Minister Estwick’s statement and that of the Prime Minister.
However what is worrying is that there was never a formal announcement by either the Health Minister Inniss or the Prime Minister that Cabinet had reached a decision to move ahead with a refurbishment of QEH and scuttle the building of a new and second hospital. In all fairness, the Prime Minister did announce at one of his quarterly press conferences that the government’s shares in Barbados National Bank and Insurance Corporation of Barbados would be sold and the proceeds used to refurbish the QEH. Health is of prime importance to us as Barbadians, others who live here and our visitors and we should have some definitive statement as to the future of the QEH instead of the multiple and conflicting announcements from different officials of those appointed by us to lead us. Note well that QEH was one of the critical areas in the CADRES poll were performance was found wanting. This is too critical to be left “in the air”. While some fortunate ones among us may be able to afford treatment overseas or have superior health insurance that can cover it, the vast majority of us only have the institution on Martindales Road as our only hope. This is not something that can be left to chance, lives are depending on it.