Strengthening health outcomes amidst revenue shortfalls in St Lucia

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OKEU Hospital, St Lucia

By Caribbean News Global contributor

CASTRIES, St Lucia – Tuesday, April 26, communicating the development agenda of ‘Putting People First’ we shall ensure that: “Every Saint Lucian is entitled to affordable, accessible, and quality healthcare,” said prime minister and minister for finance, economic development and the youth economy, Philip J Pierre.

On May 5, 2022, a press release from the office of the prime minister (OPM) noted that the “government continues to experience shortfalls in revenue on fuel subsidies” adding, “these subsidies represent an estimated $2.9 million shortfall in government revenue”.

The OPM continued:

“Notwithstanding the challenges, the government’s comprehensive and people-centric budget for 2022/23 is expected to ease the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine-Russia conflict, and its effect on rising inflation and global oil prices.”

The prime minister previously stated:

“Shortfalls in revenue will have serious implications for the government’s already strained cash flow and its ability to meet critical expenditures in areas such as healthcare, education, social assistance, wages and salaries, and debt payments. Collections from the excise tax on gasoline and diesel are needed to finance government operations, including the provision of supplies to hospitals and health facilities, the management of COVID-19, and the provision of educational equipment and supplies.”

Delivering the budget policy, “Empowering our People – Transforming our Economy” Tuesday, April 26, prime minister Pierre announced.

Strengthening health outcomes

“I come to the real wealth of the nation: its health. The government will pursue a health policy that is patient-centred, evidence-based, equitable, accessible, and affordable. Over the last two years, the government has been battling with the containment of the Covid virus. Presently, we seem to be experiencing a general slowdown in the spread of the pandemic. This should not encourage complacency as new variants continue to emerge, while we increase our vaccination uptake.

“In this financial year, we are continuing to respond to the effects of the pandemic for which an amount of $33.87 million has been budgeted to fund a range of mitigation and control measures.”

St Lucia opposition to launch UHC on assuming office, says Pierre

Universal Health Care (UHC)

We promised that we will implement Universal Health Care within the first term of our government. In this regard, we are continuing with the World Bank-funded Health System Strengthening Project, which seeks to provide a more equitable and efficient health system.

“In this financial year, our government will commence the process for the implementation of UHC. The initial health services provided under UHC have been identified and will include diabetes, hypertension, maternal health dialysis, and early cancer diagnosis.

“The World Bank-funded Health System Strengthening Project will lend support to the UHC by incentivizing efficiency in the use of health expenditure through a performance-based scheme. The project will also assist in the structuring of UHC to provide greater equity, quality, and efficiency in the delivery of care.

“A Universal Health Care programme will be established within the ministry of health wellness and elderly affairs. This program will commence with an initial fund of $6.46 million, which will be augmented in subsequent years by a funding scheme to be determined.

“The World Bank-funded Health System Strengthening Project will additionally help to strengthen the country’s public health preparedness and response, given the growing threat posed by new and emerging diseases.”

In furtherance of the retired, elderly, and vulnerable groups, prime minister Pierre, explained:

“In the allocation of portfolios, I signaled my intention to pay special attention to the retired and elderly by creating in the ministry of health, a department of elderly affairs, in recognition of one of our core values, inclusiveness, to engage retired, elderly and vulnerable groups in nation-building. In this regard, the development of a national policy for older persons has begun.”

It was the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP), which began the process of modernizing the health infrastructure of the country because we understood more than most that the health of a nation is the wealth of a nation, and that everyone should have access to the most up-to-date health services available.”

Conversely, a recent headline – ‘Health Minister bemoans low vaccination rate in St Lucia and the contents seem to “reckoned the recent arrival on the island of the minister for health“, as a result, “clueless and out of touch,” advised a public health expert, “I don’t know how many times I must say so.”

Meanwhile, the ministry of health on May 6, 2022, ahead of a possible state sponsored super-spreader event, announced that “53, 598 individuals have been fully vaccinated. Another 5, 335 are partially vaccinated and 7, 288 have received their booster shot.”

St Lucia’s low COVID-19 testing leaves the population vulnerable to future variants

A press release from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) on May 6, 2022, “Guidelines for Mass Crowd Events” reads:

“In keeping with the provisions of the referenced Mass Crowd Events Guidelines, the National Emergency Management Organisation (N.E.M.O.) would like to remind organisers of mass crowd events to submit an application for final approval of the event to NEMO. It is also the responsibility of organisers to communicate with relevant agencies for notification and approval based on the nature of the planned event. The relevant documents are also available online.”

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