Statement By Minister For Health And Social Development Honourable Ronnie W. Skelton
At The Third Sitting Of The Fourth Session Of
The Second House Of Assembly Of The Virgin Islands
On Thursday, 12th February 2015
Madame Speaker, I rise to bring clarity to the recently implemented Fee Schedule for services delivered by the BVI Health Services Authority, and to allay any fears regarding our people’s continued ability to access affordable healthcare here at home.
Madame Speaker, the Hospital Regulations 2014, which introduced the new fee schedule, has repealed the Regulations that were first enacted in 1927 and last amended in 1989. This means, Madame Speaker, for more than 26 years the charges for healthcare services in the Territory have remained stagnant while the cost of producing those services, and the demand for new and improved services, has increased significantly. For example, while our inpatient room and board charges for a semi-private room was a mere $40.00 per day, the average cost for government hospitals in the Region is approximately one thousand one hundred dollars ($1,100.00) per day.
This means, Madame Speaker, that for more than 26 years the fees for healthcare services in the Territory have remained the same, while the cost of producing those services has increased significantly. In our neighbouring island, St. Thomas, the cost of a hospital stay per day in a semi-private room is one thousand, one hundred and seventy five dollars ($1175.00); and in Anguilla it is three hundred and seventy five dollars ($375.00). Madame Speaker the new rate for residents in a semi-private room still remains among the lowest in the Region at two hundred and twenty-five dollars ($225.00) per day.
Madame Speaker, in order for us to provide quality healthcare to our people we must have the means to pay for it. Everyone in this Honourable House knew, or should have known, that the previous fee schedule had been unsustainable for many years. This under-funding negatively impacted on the quality and range of healthcare services we were able to deliver to our people. This is one reason why successive administrations arrived at the conclusion that a National Health Insurance System is essential for ensuring universal access to high quality, affordable healthcare.
Madame Speaker with the introduction of the National Health Insurance System, all residents will have equal access to quality healthcare regardless of pre-existing conditions or ability to pay. As has been said many times before, no one in this Territory will be denied access to needed healthcare. Let me say it again, Madame Speaker, no one in this Territory will be denied access to needed healthcare.
While we work to make the National Health Insurance System a reality, the Health Services Authority has put measures in place to assist persons who do not have insurance. For the uninsured with an income, the Authority will create the most affordable payment plans. The Government will continue to subsidize uninsured seniors 65 years and over, persons in custody of the State, dependent children of residents, as well as persons of insufficient means.
Madame Speaker, we have made concessions in the fee schedule for Residents, making those fees lower than the fees for Non-Residents and Visitors. This is not new. This is a standard practice that was already in place under the old Regulations, and is consistent with other jurisdictions. As a point of clarity Madame Speaker, for the purposes of the Regulations, the term ‘resident’ is not restricted to mean a person holding a Certificate of Residence, but applies to a person who is ordinarily resident in the Virgin Islands for ten years or more.
Our data shows that more than 90 percent of non-residents and visitors accessing care at our healthcare facilities pay for the services they need, and claim reimbursements from their insurance companies when they return to their countries of origin.
The approximately 10 percent uninsured that require non-emergency care are able to take advantage of the fee concessions created for them in their home countries.
I must re-emphasize Madame Speaker, no one will be denied access to needed healthcare, and the Health Services Authority will create the most affordable payment plans for everyone.
Madame Speaker, allow me to say to all the people of this community, there is no need to fear. The new fee schedule is necessary to ensure a high standard of healthcare for everyone. We thank you for your continued patience and cooperation as we strive to improve our services for the betterment of all the people of the Virgin Islands.
The investment made in the Territory’s healthcare system is already beginning to reap benefits, Madame Speaker. The confidence in our Health Services has greatly increased as demonstrated by the significant upsurge in the number of persons accessing healthcare at our facilities. So much so, Madame Speaker, that we will now have to open beds on the fifth floor of the new hospital sooner than we had anticipated.
Madame Speaker I am also happy to say that we have begun discussions with HIMA Health to perform specialized surgical procedures in our state-of-the-art operating theatres at the new Peebles Hospital. Our partnership agreement for outpatient specialty clinics, and the recently introduced tele-stroke programme with HIMA Health have been successful, and we are actively exploring additional tele-medicine opportunities. Madame Speaker, we are also preparing to introduce minimally invasive procedures using Endoscopy techniques, and we have been approached by several doctors and international hospitals wishing to provide a myriad of other services that were not available in the Territory before our flagship medical facility opened.
In closing, Madame Speaker, allow me to say it again, not one in this Territory will be denied access to needed healthcare.
And now, Madame Speaker, permit me to take this opportunity to thank the staff of my Ministry – the Ministry of Health and Social Development – and the Social Security Board for their continued hard work on the National Health Insurance System.
I am also grateful to the Board, management, and staff of the BVI Health Services Authority for their hard work toward expanding and improving the quality of healthcare services for the people of this Territory.
Thank you Madame Speaker.