Health Minister Emil Lee delivering the keynote address at the health conference.
PHILIPSBURG–Minister of Public Health Emil Lee delivered the keynote address at the twelfth annual Caribbean Conference on National Healthcare financing initiatives held in Suriname October 8-10.
The event brought together representatives of Caribbean countries with the focus on health care financing in the Caribbean.
In his address, Lee shared the plans regarding implementation of general health insurance in St. Maarten. Feedback on this was “very positive,” Lee told reporters during the Council of Ministers live press briefing on Wednesday.
Lee elaborated on the reason for universal health insurance for St. Maarten. He said universal health insurance is one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. “This means it is a global goal which St. Maarten has also recognised to be important.”
The World Health Organisation defines universal health care as meaning that all people and communities can use the promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.
“Right now, not everyone in our community has access to healthcare. We have a very fragmented system and, unfortunately, we have people who fall between the gaps and they have challenges. I don’t believe that that’s correct. Access to healthcare is a human right and we need to look at our whole health care system and that is part of our whole health care reform,” Lee said.
The topic of health care reform looks at “how can we make health care accessible and how can we ensure the quality of that health care and at what cost.” Lee said some countries indicated that they were able to reduce pharmaceutical cost by 50 per cent and others have focused on education and prevention programmes as part of their health care reform strategies.
A common challenge shared by the Caribbean countries was treatment compliance. Many countries reported that patients are diagnosed and receive medication yet fail to take these as prescribed. “I hear too often in the community where people only take their blood pressure when they feel it is too high.” Lack of compliance influences the quality of health, the quality of life and the health care budgets of a country.
For St. Maarten, national health reform is a comprehensive plan to improve health care access, quality and cost. This includes plans and policies for pharmaceutical cost control GVS; efficiency and quality control through health care information systems (HIS); registry for medical professionals BIG; focus on prevention; health in all policies government-wide – for example seat belts and helmets, septic systems, the dump, solid waste management and education.
Essential to national health reform in St. Maarten is the new general hospital. The World Bank team is currently in St. Maarten with regard to the US $25 million grant for St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) for the reinforcement of the current facility. This phase of the project will ensure consistency in the plans to improve the quality of care close to home.