Basseterre, St. Kitts, December 23, 2015 (SKNIS): Reducing the cost of medical care and health insurance for residents of St. Kitts and Nevis was among topics that Minister responsible for Health, the Honourable Eugene Hamilton, said were areas to be addressed in the upcoming year.
While acknowledging that the health statistics continues to improve, Minister Hamilton said the strengths must be improved upon and the weaknesses reduced.
“So we will be looking at a lot of the legislation and policies relating to health,” he stated, while making his contribution to the Budget debate earlier this week. This includes the National Health Policy, the Public Health Act, the National Strategic Plan and others.
“It is true Mr. Speaker that there are many persons in our nation, in our state, who do not now pay for medical services based on age or so on, but this country has a number of people who work at very minimal wage, are not in a position to be able to afford some of those important musts …,” Minister Hamilton said, counting healthcare as one of these essentials.
He recounted the story of a 34-year-old fisherman from Keys Village who discovered he was ill and was recommended to go to Trinidad for 21 rounds of chemotherapy, which was estimated to have cost US$30,000, that’s more than EC$81,000. The young man sought assistance from various institutions and individuals but was unable to achieve the total.
“And that guy could not proceed to get those 21 cycles of chemotherapy and died a very, very painful death at 34, and I believe with all my heart that every individual in this country should have access to the services, healthcare, when they get sick,” Minister Hamilton said. “And so Mr. Deputy Speaker, one of my passions, and mission is to ensure that there is a programme in place in the nation that will give hope and opportunity to people when they feel hopeless and hapless.”
Prime Minister, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, said the government is “excited about the prospects for the evolution of the health sector.” There are plans to create an Oncology Unit at the Joseph N. France General Hospital to assist locals stricken by cancer. While cancer treatment remains an expensive prospect in many regional and international countries, residents of St. Kitts and Nevis stand to benefit from the introduction of a National Health Insurance Scheme that will defer some of the costs associated with medical care. Prime Minister Harris said a Commission for Universal Healthcare has already been established to oversee the efforts to complete preparations for the implementation of the Scheme.