Friday 19 July, 2019

"Every single St Lucian will have healthcare insurance" - PM

The Government of St. Lucia is moving full speed ahead in its quest to implement a much talked about national health insurance policy by April of next year.

However, this hinges on whether the government is able to pass legislation to that effect this year.

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet is adamant that this will happen, stating that this is the goal of his administration. The prime minister is under considerable pressure from the opposition St. Lucia Labour Party, members of the St. Lucia Nurses Association and members of the Medical and Dental Association to correct huge deficiencies in the country’s healthcare system, in particular the issues plaguing the incomplete St. Jude Hospital and the transferal of services from the Victoria Hospital to the Owen King European Union (OKEU) Hospital.

With the Owen King Hospital said to be opening soon with an annual operational cost equivalent to the amount allocated to run Victoria Hospital plus an extra $70 million, government has been talking about setting up a system that will provide a source of funding for the operations of the hospital.

The idea of increasing National Insurance Corporation’s contributions by 50 percent – from 10 percent to 15 percent – was not agreed to by the Cabinet of Ministers.

“We felt that while this may be able to generate sufficient funds, cover the healthcare cost, it would not make (healthcare) accessible by the average St. Lucian. The people who do not have access will still not have access,” Chastanet said.

He believes that a national health insurance policy is the system that will ensure every St. Lucia gets healthcare coverage.

“We have to create a system where every single St. Lucian will have healthcare insurance in this country, which means that no longer will St. Lucians question whether they should see the doctor or question whether they have enough money for medicine,” Chastanet said.

He wants the national health insurance policy to come into being at the same time the Owen King Hospital opens its doors to the public because the cost of financing both the OKEU and Victoria Hospital will be too much for government.

“The goal is to close down Victoria Hospital and transfer everything to the OKEU Hospital and I am hoping this would coincide with the introduction of healthcare insurance,” Chastanet said.

He said that once the national health insurance is up and running and all services at Victoria Hospital have been moved to the OKEU Hospital, government would focus on three things: providing a variety of quality medical procedures; providing preventive healthcare, that is getting people to focus on eating better and living healthier lifestyles; and completing the St. Jude Hospital.

The OKEU Hospital and St. Jude are both statutory bodies. A Board of Directors for the OKEU Hospital has not been appointed to date. Chastanet believes that the statutory body status given to the OKEU Hospital will work well for it.

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