Minister Lee, keynote speaker at Health Conference


SURINAME — Minister of Public Health, Emil Lee was invited as a keynote speaker to the 12th Annual Caribbean Conference on National Healthcare financing initiatives hosted in Suriname. The conference took place on October 8-10th. The event brought together representatives of Caribbean countries with the focus on health care financing in the Caribbean. In his keynote address, Lee shared the plans regarding implementation of General Health Insurance on Sint Maarten, to which feedback received was “very positive”.

In Wednesday’s press briefing, Lee elaborated on the reason for the focus towards Universal Health Insurance for country Sint Maarten. Universal Health Insurance is one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, “this means it is a global goal – to which Sint Maarten has also recognized to be important.” The World Health Organization defines Universal Health Care as; Universal health coverage (UHC) means that all people and communities can use the promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.

“Right now, not everyone in our community has access to healthcare. We have a very fragmented system and unfortunately we have people who fall between the gaps and they have challenges. I don’t believe that that’s correct. Access to healthcare is a human right and we need to look at our whole health care system and that is part of our whole health care reform.” – Emil Lee, Minister of VSA

The topic of health care reform looks at; how can we make health care accessible and how can we ensure the quality of that health care and at what cost. Lee stated that some countries have presented that they were able to reduce pharmaceutical costs by 50% and others have focused on education and prevention programs, as part of their health care reform strategies. A common challenge shared by the Caribbean countries was noted to be ‘treatment compliance’. Many countries reported that patients are diagnosed and get receive medication yet fails to taking these as prescribed. “I hear too often in the community where people only take their blood pressure when they “feel” it is too high.” Lack of compliance influences the quality of health, quality of life and also the health care budgets of a country.

For Sint Maarten, National Health Reform is a comprehensive plan to improve health care access, quality and cost. This includes plans and policies for: Pharmaceutical cost control (GVS), Efficiency and quality control through Health Care Information systems (HIS), Registry for medical professionals (BIG), Focus on prevention, Health in all policies; government-wide, for example seat belts & helmets, Septic systems, Dump, solid waste management and Education.

Essential to National Health reform on Sint Maarten is the new General Hospital. The World Bank team is currently on Sint Maarten with regards to the 25 million dollar grant to the hospital for the reinforcement of the current facility. This phase of the project will ensure consistency in the plans to improve the quality of care close to home.