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Dec 21, 2007

Politicians clash over plans for NHI rollout

Story PictureLate word this week is that National Health Insurance point man Dr. Ramon Figueroa has tendered his resignation to the Social Security Board. According to the United Democratic Party’s N.H.I. committee member Dr. George Gough, Figueroa’s departure is proof positive that all is not well with the planned countrywide rollout in January.

Dr. George Gough, NHI Committee Member
“For him to say one day, “I’ve had enough!” for me it sends up a red flag. All I’m asking the government is to stop right now, look at what has happened, look at what they are trying to do in the fast track and slow down. Slow down, re-look it, you don’t have to roll it out countrywide because of politics. People understand that National Health Insurance is good. We, the United Democratic Party, understand it’s good, but we are asking them to slow down. You cannot ask us to find or commit forty million dollars a year to for private care when we have not established a source of funding.”

“We cannot go into a process that’s going to provide a service if we don’t make sure our regulatory frame work, our technical advice, our technical structure, our administrative functions, our capacity building, or the training of our people, the infrastructure if its ready, the payment of the structure, the payment of services. If you don’t put that in place, then for me it can only be politics. And obviously as a politician, people will say, “Yes it’s politics”. Yes, I know it’s politics, that’s why I’m here. But I am appealing to the decency that you’re not playing with politics in the sense of playing with people. Because I know we go to those extremes, but at the same time this one is going to hurt us anywhere we go and any party that comes to power. This is going to hurt us”

But this afternoon Minister of Health Jose Coye was quick to rebut Gough’s diagnosis and maintained that the countrywide rollout of the N.H.I. will continue as scheduled.

Jose Coye, Minister of Health
“I think for anyone to go and to say that we cannot afford to provide the N.H.I., is wrong, it’s not true. We have to afford to do it and we can do it. The question, the challenge that is facing us is not the primary health care, we have no choice in that; if we have sixty-seven million alone in the budget just for the public sector, and even if we were to have a hundred percent registration, which is very unlikely, and even putting at the highest of forty-one million, of course we can do it. But, what do we do now for the secondary and the tertiary care? That is what the challenge should be. It’s not about the N.H.I. in the terms of a primary care package with the supporting services..”

Marion Ali
“You said forty-one million is a little bit excessive, how much do you put it at?”

Jose Coye
“I would say, that based on our history of the N.H.I. so far on the southside and in the south, if you get about say eighty percent registration, which is about the highest we may get on the average, I would say it would bring us down to pretty round about thirty-one, thirty-two million. And then the Ministry of Health, you see what we are providing already and have been providing, we will continue to provide that. So when we project that thirty-one million, it’s not that we have to go and look for thirty-one million, we have an amount of that already within the Ministry of Health. So what we have been providing already through the Ministry of Health, we will change the model of delivery. Instead of giving it through the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Health then can buy it.”

As for Figueroa’s resignation, the Minister told us he has not been informed of the doctor’s reasons for leaving the S.S.B.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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