Last year health was given $4.3 billion, and this year, $5.5 billion, which amounts to the third highest allocation in the national budget.
In his first budget presentation in the Parliament Chamber, Tower D yesterday Finance Minister, Larry Howai mentioned infrastructure projects which were on the agenda in last year’s budget — new hospitals in Pt Fortin, Arima, Sangre Grande and Chaguanas as well as the upgrade of the San Fernando General Hospital.
He said the National Public Health Laboratory and Caribbean Public Health Agency at Caura would begin. Howai said these projects would be funded through public-private partnerships and joint ventures.
Howai said, “the Ministry of Health is also at an advanced stage of pursuing such arrangements for oncology, cardiac surgery and organ transplants. Moreover, negotiations are at an advanced stage for establishing financing agreements for:-a hospital at Couva which will cater for children and adults, and which would have a burns unit: a teaching hospital at Chancery Lane, San Fernando; a National Centre for Non-Communicable Diseases at Penal.” In last year’s budget mention was also made of the construction of four trauma clinics in association with the Association of psychologists. In an interview outside Tower D yesterday, Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan listed the projects which were ongoing: the Pt Fortin, Arima, Sangre Grande hospitals National Oncology Centre, Chancery Lane Complex, Carenage and Diego Martin Health Centres, and San Fernando and Sangre Grande Enhanced Health Facilities.
Khan said he was trying to have an EHS for Moruga. He disclosed that the design specifications were changed for the Pt Fortin Hospital to have more beds and services. Khan said an orthopaedic ward and theatre, maternity ward and theatre, ophthalmology ward and theatre would be included.
Khan said the first phase of the Chancery Lane project — maternal and child health would be opened, and the surgical clinics would follow.
Commenting on services, he said specialty services would be offered through a public-private partnership arrangements between the Regional Health Authority and private sector, and he would speak more on this in his contribution in the budget debate.
Responding to protests by residents for a new Pt Fortin Hospital he said the hospital has been advancing over the years and the designing, financing, procurement had to be properly done. “We have reached the stage now where the Ministry of Finance is trying to get the finance funds from the concessional loan from the Chinese government, so hopefully they will get that as soon as possible. The Arima hospital has already gone out for tender; the tender is about two months old. I am just waiting for Udecott to call for the evaluation team together so we can start building.” Khan said $14 million was allocated last year for psychological trauma clinics to be established, but after studies were done it did not make sense to have these as stand alone centres.
“Because psychology trauma counselling can be done in-house in the hospitals. They have to come up with a plan to put it under the regional health authorities.”