Basseterre, St. Kitts (SKNIS): Plans to develop a robust National Health Insurance system in St. Kitts and Nevis are advancing but will not be finalized without public consultation.
Universal healthcare, as it is commonly called is a priority for the government, with Prime Minister and Minister of Health, the Honourable Dr. Terrance Drew, heading up efforts to make healthcare more accessible in the twin-island Federation. He referenced his medical background and noted that most persons will suffer a catastrophic illness during their lives and will either die or require prolonged care.
“I see it all the time,” the Prime Minister said. “… Right now, cancer is the number one cause of death in St. Kitts and Nevis, and I look around at us in the room, and I can count and say how many of us would end up with cancer. It’s just a reality, and 90 percent of people in St. Kitts can’t afford it.”
The burgeoning cost of chemotherapy, radiation treatment, CT scans, and other medical tests and treatments severely impact personal finances, making it extremely difficult to afford proper care. Dr. Drew said that he is “fed up of seeing people dying” because they cannot pay for medical treatment.
“… Nobody can save enough money to take care of themselves facing a catastrophic illness, and that is why I am asking our people to do, like what we did with social security, to pool our money and contribute to it,” Honourable Dr. Drew stated.
The government is mulling over several proposals related to National Health Insurance. The matter will also be discussed with officials from the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) who meet with local health officials next week.
“We need now to discuss it at that level so that we can bring something to the people because we want the people’s input; we want to hear from the people,” the Prime Minister said. “Do you think it is a good idea? If you don’t think so, why not? This is [what] we propose. Do you think we should modify it? We want the people to be involved because at the end of the day, we will be asking the people to contribute to National Health Insurance.”
Dr. Drew noted that the government recently provided financial assistance to two children who had to travel to the Cayman Islands for heart surgery. The medical bill for one surgery is US$30,000, while the other is US$70,000.
“That is the cost of healthcare, and our best chance of beating it is to have a good healthcare system, an accredited [health] institution, and National Health Insurance,” Prime Minister Dr. Drew expressed, adding that there is “no other way around it.”