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Barbados Advocate – Few patients have had the opportunity to travel overseas for treatment via the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s (QEH) Medical Aid Scheme, on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Executive Chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland revealed the above recently during the Estimates debate, in response to a query posed by Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley about the Scheme’s performance. Bynoe-Sutherland noted that in the last financial year patients have been brought back home amidst the pandemic, but funds attached to the Scheme remain in place, to aid persons needing to access healthcare overseas, in the future. 

“The Medical Aid Scheme number has remained fairly static, particularly over the last financial year, because with the onset of the COVID pandemic, we have not had patients travelling,” Bynoe-Sutherland revealed. 

“This is a very, very important part of the service offerings of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the health system more generally.  Where there are services that are not available or expertise that is not available in Barbados, persons can access overseas treatment and care, through referrals from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. How do you access this service? This service usually is accessed in a very deliberate and organized way. There is a committee and a request is usually made by one of our consultants within the hospital system. He will have to give the justification, the prognosis for the patient and then that committee, that doesn’t include administrators, that is purely clinical, will make an assessment as to whether or not the case can benefit from overseas treatment,” the QEH’s Executive Chairman explained. 

“Once that decision is taken, our Social Work Department then goes through a very systematic assessment of the person’s ability, in terms of whether they have some insurance cover or not and ultimately comes up with a formula for that person to be able to access care overseas. And then our Social Work Department arranges with our clinicians, to have those persons travel overseas,” she added.

Bynoe-Sutherland maintained, “As a result of the COVID pandemic, we have not had significant overseas travel. In fact, I think we had a few patients overseas that we were able to get back in, but we recognize that although we did not have a significant call on the Medical Aid Scheme budget in the last financial year, we have maintained it at the existing level, so that we can ensure that those resources are available, should people need to access care not available at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.”

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