Home Local News Health Minister calls on regional colleagues to “learn from the COVID pandemic” as Caribbean Health Conference gets underway

Health Minister calls on regional colleagues to “learn from the COVID pandemic” as Caribbean Health Conference gets underway

by Pointe Xpress
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“We must not waste the lessons of COVID.”

This was the admonition of Antigua and Barbuda’s Health Minister, Sir Molwyn Joseph, as he addressed dozens of regional health officials at the opening ceremony at the 14th Caribbean Conference on National Health Financing Initiatives at the Royalton Antigua Resort and Spa on Wednesday.

“COVID was devastating, but COVID did something well for the Caribbean; I know I speak for this healthcare system that it graphically exposed the weaknesses of our system. Every Caribbean Island discovered that they were not prepared for COVID,” Sir Molwyn said.

His words were fitting as the theme of this year’s forum is Confronting the financing challenges of COVID-19 and the unfinished universal coverage agenda.

The Health Financing Conference is intended to share knowledge, test ideas, identify best practices and develop regional networks of institutions and experts for ongoing collaboration.

The health minister said through these discussions, a path can be mapped to address all of the weaknesses that the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted.

Echoing Sir Molwyn’s sentiments was Dr. Anton Cumberbatch, Advisor for the Centre for Health Economics at the UWI St Augustine.

Dr. Cumberbatch noted that the timing of this year’s conference is crucial as the region continues to rebuild and strengthen its healthcare services.

He too affirmed that the pandemic revealed shortcomings in regional healthcare and added that the discussion and plans developed coming out of them will be paramount.

“A greater effort must be given and the best way to improve upon the regional healthcare system is first through improving on health financing” he said.

The pandemic, and manoeuvring past it, are among several topics the officials will focus on during their time in Antigua.

Other areas of focus will be policy changes in the Universal Health Coverage Agenda and mapping coping skills, post-COVID, for the region’s nations.

The three-day forum is being hosted by the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment and the Medical Benefits Scheme in partnership with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

It is the first time the conference has been held since it last took place in Anguilla in 2019.

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