Minister of health and Health, National Health Insurance the Hon. Eugene Hamilton is targeting better access to health care for citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis with the launch of the National Health Insurance Implementation Commission.
Hamilton said that far too often many in the Federation have been burdened with medical bills when taken ill and have to go on fund raising initiatives just source the funds needed for the required treatment and those failing to do have fallen victim to their illness. “Haemodialysis in this Federation cost $125,000 per year. What if the private insurance decides you are a bad risk and cancels your coverage then what?”
He then described lack of health insurance as a nightmare being faced by real people. “Naturally when reality hits, people turn to the government, which the government’s Treasury can be the medical ATM for all people.”
Hamilton then remembered some individuals who had suffered from various diseases and could not come up with the funds to get the requisite treatment and suffered as a result.
“It always tugs at my heart when I think of poor Livingston Griffin from keys village, a young man at 34 who had an operation, a successful one at the hospital here and then he was told you have to seek 21 cycles of chemotherapy in Trinidad and Tobago for a cost of over 30 thousand US dollars.
“Poor Mr Griffin, an ordinary fisherman, he couldn’t go to fish while he was sick and I saw that young man suffer a very painful death at age 34 just because it couldn’t access health care.”
He continued, “Then at 31 young Akilah Dore, a person who was working for the public service, had not properly enrolled because of something and was stricken with cancer and had to travel to Antigua to that Centre there. I recalled when she called me on the phone and said Minister I have to come back home they’re not doing any work on me because I do have it $9000 US dollars. I had to call the principals of that institution and say you have to treat that lady even if I have to raise the money myself in St Kitts.”
Hamilton also spoke of a former Olympian Deonte Foster who had to get one of his legs amputated after he was diagnosed of cancer and is now seeking a prosthetic leg.
“I don’t know how national insurance will help him but I trust that we can give some assistance to national insurance as well. And then of course I was in hospital on Sunday visiting and there was 29 year oldyoung man with his kidneys gone. He needs hemodialysis every day perhaps for the rest of his life and he doesn’t have it.
“I looked at the poor man sitting in the hospital weeping away and thought all of us have to help. Twenty-nine and his kidneys are gone,” Hamilton said.
The Minister added hisgovernment places a very high premium on adequate social protection in all forms. “That will be of benefit particularly to develop those who, but for the efforts of a caring government, would be left to struggle hopelessly and perhaps helplessly to fend for themselves against all odds.”
He added thatwhen he reflects about those who suffer because of lack of resources he looks back to 1992 when “the imaginative minds of unprecedented relief to ordinary public servants. “I say further that it is the imaginative minds of the present day administration with broad public support that would again take health care delivery to another level 26 years later.”
Hamilton explained that this new initiative will be a process of hard and honest reflection of the best way to ensure all will have access to high quality affordable healthcare. “People should not have to delay a needed procedure because they have no money. People should not suffer the humiliation of this and pensions being wiped out by medical bills or buying a needed prescription drug or procedure
“People dying for lack of funds is problematic and inhumane. The time has come therefore to make some decisions about the design elements of our universal health insurance program,” he said.