Tue | Jul 7, 2020

Use outsourcing money to improve public health facilities, Campbell urges Gov’t

Published:Wednesday | May 22, 2019 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Dayton Campbell, opposition spokesman on health, making his Sectoral Debate presentation yesterday.

Opposition Spokesman on Health Dr Dayton Campbell has bashed the plan announced by the Ministry of Health and Wellness to outsource some non-emergency surgeries and diagnostic tests to private contractors to ease the burden on public health facilities.

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton recently announced the plan, explaining that where a service could not be accessed at a public health facility, the Government would pay for patients to undergo those tests and surgeries privately in a bid to reduce waiting times.

It is part of a broader plan to use $1 billion to fast-track the provision of diagnostic tests and surgeries in the public health sector.

However, Campbell, while making his contribution to the Sectoral Debate yesterday, said he had no issue with patients accessing diagnostic tests at private facilities. However, he raised questions about contractors being used to do surgeries, labelling it a divestment of healthcare with the potential to be exploited by a few.

“There are ethical concerns. The question is: Will the same doctors in the public sector be the ones to do the surgeries in the public-private partnership? How do we ensure that the people are not channelling the hospital work into their private practices? How will the post-operation care be carried out? When these surgeries are done, will these patients be sent to the public ward?” Campbell asked.

No incentives?

The opposition spokesman also questioned what incentives doctors would have to work in the public system if they could get higher rates in the private sector.

He suggested instead that the Government invest the money in improving public facilities.

“If this $1 billion is available, why can’t it be used to improve specific surgical centres in the public system to carry out these surgeries? At most of our major hospitals with multiple operating threatres, at night, only one threatre is used. Why don’t we get the additional staff to ensure that one team is dealing with on-call and another team is dealing with the cases to reduce the waiting list?” Campbell further questioned.

The opposition spokesman also charged that the Government lacked the political will to reverse the free healthcare policy, which the Opposition contends is causing problems in the sector.

“The health sector has always been stretched. We have a sector that is significantly underfunded. This problem has clearly been made worse by the free healthcare policy. The free healthcare policy was, and remains, a pyrrhic political victory, and despite the adverse effect, there is no will to rescind strictly based on political calculations,” he told Parliament.