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Health care under focus

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It is not unusual for electoral campaigns to degenerate in the direction of personal and partisan attacks rather than focus on serious proposals for development, even when proposals are contained in the folds of party manifestos. Not just in St Vincent and the Grenadines, mind you.

One cannot help but be elated that in spite of the usual politicking, two positive signs, inter-related, have emerged out of this year’s campaign.{{more}} First, the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) has begun to pay more attention to its role as a possible alternative and as a proposer of ideas to take the country forward. The other side of the coin is that this helps in keeping the governing Unity Labour Party (ULP) on track in highlighting its own achievements and plans.

The best example of this is the current focus by both parties on the health sector. Normally, manifesto plans aside, the platform attitude to this sector has been either one of chest-thumping on the part of incumbents, or vilification on the opposing side. Now, Vincentians can take comfort in a renewed concrete focus on health from the contending parties.

The Government recently disclosed its plans for a new referral hospital at Arnos Vale, while, to its credit, the NDP, last Saturday night at Calliaqua, revealed its own plans, including the construction of a new hospital.

No one can deny that our secondary and tertiary health care systems need serious attention. Both parties are proposing new facilities, but the construction of new buildings will not, in and of themselves, make the system better. There is a whole range of other factors which should be taken into account.

First of all, and again we must compliment both parties for recognizing this, there is the matter of how health care will be financed. The NDP has committed itself to a national health insurance system, also raised by the Government, and it is left to be seen how creative and innovative are the respective proposals in this challenging area.

Then, there is the fundamental one of the human resource base and our ability to attract and retain quality staff, as well as to provide them with adequate equipment and supplies needed to carry out their functions. This is true at all levels, from highly qualified doctors and specialists down to cleaners, cooks and security staff.

This must include effective controls to limit pilferage, abuse and misuse of scarce resources, wastage and mismanagement. These have long plagued our health care system and compromised its effectiveness.

Most importantly, however, will be the proper management of the overall system. We seem to be using a management system designed for a much smaller, and more rudimentary, 1950s/60s health sector in this modern era. All the best plans to develop the system will be deemed to failure unless there is a total revamping of how the sector is managed.

We can only hope that these matters get as much attention and serious thought as the more attractive physical aspects. Our well-being depends on it.

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