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QEH continues to be a referral centre to the OECS, says James

QEH continues to be a referral centre to the OECS, says James


Officials at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) say that although there had been a policy in place for overseas referrals since 2003, there was a lack of adherence to procedure and protocol from consultants and countries referring patients to that institution.{{more}}

Dr Dexter James, Chief Executive Officer of the QEH, in a statement made available to SEARCHLIGHT, made it unequivocally clear that the QEH would continue to be a referral centre to the rest of the Eastern Caribbean, but only in accordance with the policies and procedures put in place.

In an email to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, dated January 31, 2012 James stated: “You will note that we have improved on arrangements for urgent and emergency transfers and strengthened payment mechanisms. In a general sense, patients will not be admitted to the QEH until and unless satisfactory financial arrangements are made prior to admission.”

He defended this decision, saying that the newly implemented policies for the referral of overseas patients was done to deal with inefficiencies in the referral system and to facilitate arrangements for a smoother admissions process.

But local medical practitioners are of the opinion that the new procedures, particularly those which deal with payment, had already started to put Vincentians at a disadvantage, as among the policy changes is that persons will not be admitted until satisfactory financial arrangements have been made.

“It is unfortunate that the focus of the referral guidelines was on the financial arrangements, when the policy had been enhanced to regularize emergency admissions, facilitate easier entry into Barbados and for the provision of ambulance services,” James indicated in the statement.

“Prior to the implementation of the policy, patients from overseas have repeatedly presented to the hospital unexpectedly, unknown to the system and without the resources to cover the cost of their care. In so doing, no consideration was given to the capacity of the hospital to manage such patients,” James said.

He added that usually care was provided to such patients without reimbursement from either the patient or referring country.

“As chief executive officer of the primary healthcare facility in Barbados, I have a fiduciary and administrative responsibility to ensure that the funds provided by the taxpayers of Barbados are first and foremost utilized to provide services for citizens and permanent residents. Where spare capacity exists, the QEH will continue to provide care and treatment to patients overseas,” he continued.

James contended that since the new guidelines had gone into effect in November 2011 that the QEH has continued to accept patients from overseas, without any issues, and that all arrangements have been working well.

To date, there have been 37 referrals from OECS countries, all of whom, according to James, have complied with the pre-payment arrangements.

In cases where patients have been accepted under emergency circumstances, James indicated that deposit arrangements had been finalized by the next working day.