(Excerpts of Dr. the Honourable Godwin Friday’s 2023 Budget Presentation)
I heard the minister talked about a health care revolution. You can’t be serious. The horror
stories are familiar to most of us. Madam Speaker, health is one of the closest things to you. You
have to try and improve as time goes on. We don’t have to accept that bad health care is just the
way things are in St. Vincent and Grenadines. When you get sick you go somewhere else. We
The minister will say that we have invested in the budget. This estimates $110 million, directly
in the health services. A hundred million in recurrent expenditures and $9.4 million for capital
expenditure. Yet, there is chronic shortage of basic medicine for common diseases. Bandages
and supplies are often not available and I know this from people who are there or have been there
recently. Therefore, leaving family members to search all over Kingstown to try to find a
pharmacy that has the medication. We have had a scarcity or a lack of critical diagnostic
equipment. But, the minister said, and I’m happy to hear, that an MRI machine and CT scan are
coming to help with that problem. The question is, of course, to make sure that they function,
you have the technicians, and they work, because we had a CT scan here too and sometimes you
go there and it isn’t working.
So, we have to make sure we take care of those problems. You can’t have Madam Speaker, a
person coming from North Leeward or the Southern Grenadines to go and get a procedure, and
when you get to the hospital, you are told, “Well sorry, the machine is down.” or, “the technician
didn’t come in today,” That is unconscionable. I see that there is the patient bill of rights in the
hospital, that means nothing if the people who are administering the institution don’t take it to
heart themselves. The patients could read it and grumble, and who do they complain to? You
have an ombudsman to your parliamentary representative who’s in the opposition. We have to do
better than that.
Madam Speaker, very often for persons who need to have surgery or diagnostic intervention,
currently have to go overseas. A friend of mine went to Grenada for MRI. Some people go to
Barbados or to Trinidad, or if you have to undergo surgery still, they do. The delays can cause a
lot of pain and anxiety for people. We understand that the complex surgeries, brain surgery, heart
surgery, organ transplants or serious technical advanced kind of surgeries, that you have to still
go abroad. We’ll never be able to do those things here, because we just don’t have the numbers
to justify that. But, we should put facilities in place to make sure we can get access to them. We
must improve, Madam Speaker, the question is, how do people find the money to pay for these
services? The suggestion was that there was going to be perhaps user fees.
But, currently what happens is that somebody gets sick, and you get treatment with us here or
overseas. People have to go and they beg their MP, they come to my office or some of the
members on this side and members on my team, they are very generous and try to help people as
best they can with their limited resources. I would hope the members on the other side do
likewise. But similarly, Madam Speaker, they go to businesses, they get charities or they have
food sale, barbecue sale, to try and raise funds to go and get treatment. And, you may do that the
first time, but what happens if you have to go back? You have to go through the process again.
That is not acceptable.
Madam Speaker, it’s very hard to hear someone who comes for assistance, because they need a
diagnosis, and they have a life-threatening illness or they need to get intervention, whether it’s
surgery or some of the treatment, and they have to go overseas; Barbados, Trinidad, maybe even
Cuba before the analysis and treatment. And, you ask them, “Well, when are you going?” And
they replied, they don’t know because they have to raise the money to go. This comes in dribs
and drabs, a little contribution here and there. People go around with sponsor sheets trying to
raise funds. That’s unacceptable. The number of such cases might be statistically not large, but
In any event, Madam Speaker, health care is not a numbers game. It’s not a numbers game.
Every single life is precious and matters, especially to the owner of it, and to their family
members. So, we need to do better. Let’s see, the functioning of the CT scan and the MRI that
the minister spoke of, how that will work out. And again, the question that I ask is that not just
having the machine but having the maintenance, having the technical people, the staff, to make
sure it functions the way it’s supposed to.
You will note that the NDP in the campaign, we talked about building a modern purpose hospital
to serve our people, and they ridiculed it, Madam Speaker. They find a picture somewhere on the
internet and they say, “Oh, this is Farmville. The people of St Vincent and the Grenadines don’t
deserve this.” Then it took them a little while to come up with their own idea. They say, “Well,
listen, this is something. The NDP may have had a good plan there, but let me come up with
something else. We’ll call it not a hospital, an acute referral hospital.” Call it something
different, it’s part of a bigger plan. But, we understand and the people understand that this is
what we proposed, because we know that people of this country deserve better health care.