ST GEORGE’S, Grenada — The newly elected government of Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell is forging ahead with plans for the establishment of a national health insurance scheme in Grenada, with the delivery of quality health care a top priority of the new administration. This was the subject of discussion during a post Cabinet briefing last week.
A committee headed by former Labour senator, Chester Humphrey, has been established to chart the way forward.
The government places high priority on the new committee, given the acute shortage of medication and other services experienced at the General Hospital.
Health officials say that the financial recession has made it difficult for government to meet its commitment. It owes more than EC$3 million to its 15 or more suppliers, who have been unwilling to supply the country with medication. However, a compromise has been reached, with the government moving to pay off some of the debt, so that some medication can be obtained.
The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), which received a one million dollar payment last September, has been given the assurance by the government, that it will offset the remainder of the debt. Reports also indicate that some of the basic necessities to operate at the General Hospital cannot be purchased and efforts are being made to have those who can afford it to pay for laboratory, x-ray and other services.
Health Minister Clarice Modeste -Curwen said that people need to financially contribute so that the government can provide basic medical supplies. She is confident that a national health insurance scheme will bring relief.
“A national health insurance scheme will collect monies when persons are working and are able to pay; and so it will prevent the necessity of collecting at the point of the delivery of health care,” the minister told reporters.
She painted a vivid picture of the problems faced by residents, who find themselves in accidents and emergency situations.
“You fall down somewhere in town and do not have a cent in your pocket; you do not want to be told that the x-ray costs EC$30 and you have to pay that before you get an x-ray. Certainly this is not the kind of service we want to deliver; so we are attempting to create the condition for persons to be able to pay when they are working,” she explained.
Modeste said that the new scheme will accommodate nationals who cannot contribute because they are not working, noting that there is need for speedy and aggressive action to collect revenues to assist in the delivery of quality health services.
“We are aggressively moving to work with Social Services to ensure that indigents do not fall through the cracks. We must protect their health care to a basic acceptable standard. At this point in time, I cannot say this is so,” said Modeste.
The health minister is confident that the national health insurance scheme will play a pivotal role and that the committee selected will hold consultations with key stakeholders to come up with workable recommendations.
“What we want is a sustainable, regular, dependable service and improved quality of health,” said the minister.
The National Health Insurance Committee headed by Humphrey was selected by Cabinet last week, but the names of the other members have not yet been released.