Barbadian expectations were raised when the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) switched from being a department of government in 2002 to being run by a statutory board. We were convinced by the then government that the autonomy of a board was just what the doctor ordered for the QEH.
Successive governments have had to battle many challenges when asked to manage our premiere health institution. To read the full-page ad which was placed by BAMP in the weekend newspapers detailing yet another conflict with the Board of the QEH would not have registered on the cognitive index of the vast majority of Barbadians. We have come to expect it. One is left to wonder why the industrial relations climate at the QEH always seem to ring of a discordant note.
Based on what BU has observed over the years the problems at the QEH are many and solutions difficult. The question which has to be asked is whether healthcare delivery is now being compromised as a result of unresolved issues between doctors and Board which have been outstanding for too long. BU’s sense is that there is a hardening of positions at the QEH. According to our sources the junior doctors especially are being asked to work extremely long hours which means there is no work life balance and a 12 hour day is not uncommon. A spirit of cooperation which was part of a now distant culture has reversed to the detriment of the patient. As if this isn’t enough some in the know believe the quality of Interns entering the QEH in recent times is inferior compared to that of old.
Barbados has always prided itself on its standard of healthcare delivery, the unsettled industrial climate at the QEH over time is beginning to undermine it all.
It seems the problems affecting our healthcare system are not limited to the QEH. It must be said that while the vast majority of medical practitioners in Barbados in the private sector do a good job delivering healthcare, the adage one bad apple will spoil the barrel rings true. BU has it on good authority that there is a small band of doctors who are being significantly rewarded for referring unsuspecting patients to specialist doctors, laboratories and others. Not only is this practice unethical but borders on illegal. BU must be fair and ‘defend’ those doctors who manipulate insurance claims to ensure their patients benefit even if there is a mismatch between the claim and service delivered. In one case the patient pays more and in the other the patient saves!
We are often quick to call on politicians and public officials to demonstrate transparency and integrity in the execution of duties but what about our doctors in the private sector?