Sweeping Health Measures Underway in New Budget Cycle, Says Health Minister Dr. Darville

The content originally appeared on: ZNS BAHAMAS News
(BIS Photos/Ulric Woodside)

The Minister of Health and Wellness the Hon. Dr. Michael Darville says his ministry is about changing the way health care is delivered to the public through the modernization of facilities and other services.

He was making his contribution to the Budget Debate in the House of Assembly on Tuesday, June 11, 2024.

Dr. Darville highlighted that for the 2024/2025 Budget cycle, the ministry will receive a total of $385,734,491, which represents an increase of $37,685,007 over the 2023/2024 budget.

Most of this expenditure increase will go to the Public Hospitals Authority, and the Department for Public Health for additional hires and to expand essential healthcare programs across the country.

Dr. Darville said he was also proud to introduce three new Line Items under his ministry.  

One covers Stem Cell and Gene Therapy Research.  Such life saving therapies will be governed by a new Bill that will repeal and replace the 2016 Stem Cell measure.

In-country, these life saving therapies will be governed by a new bill that will repeal and replace the old 2016 Stem Cell, said Dr. Darville.  He had tabled the Longevity and Regenerative Bill 2024 in the House of Assembly a few months ago and he envisioned it would be enacted shortly.  A sum of $250,000 is being allocated in that line item to help bring that bill into force once enacted.

The second Line Item, the National Mental Health program was allocated $500,000 to help bring some components of this progressive piece of legislation into force.

“In the current budget cycle a lot of preparatory work and post graduate training was done to prepare community clinics to bring this new mental health Act into force in stages,” he said. “The allocated funds in this new budget will be used for programs that would help patients and their families and establish more community programs across the country.”

The third new Line Item — Social Assistance Benefits — has been allocated the sum of $18 million.  This was previously under the Ministry of Finance.“This year as we move closer to the implementation of Catastrophic Health Insurance, the NIB Drug Prescription Plan will move to the Ministry of Health and Wellness for further development and management,” Dr. Darville said.

He also revealed that in this budget cycle the government will be moving an amendment to the current National Insurance (Chronic Diseases Prescription Drug Fund) Bill, which seeks to transfer management and operations of the Prescription Drug Plan and Prescription Drug Fund from NIB to the Ministry of Health and Wellness and preserves the terms and conditions of the plan.

“This move will make way in the future for all NHIA members who suffer from NCDs to access these lifesaving drugs. This move will also help to prevent duplication in and wastage across the public health system and after many years bring consistency to the drug procurement process, reduce costs and yes open the plan to more Bahamians,” he explained.

Dr. Darville also envisioned that the transformation of the healthcare system in the years to come would be cited as historical reference.

He further explained that the government through his ministry will modernize the three major public health hospitals in The Bahamas — the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) built in 1953, the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre (SRC) built in 1956, and the Rand Memorial Hospital (RMH), built in Grand Bahama in 1969 as a private hospital and in 1971 became a public healthcare facility currently managed by the PHA.

Dr. Darville thanked the “hard-working” staff across the healthcare sector that “continues to give good service to our employer, the Bahamian people.

Our work is not done yet… we have been assured that with God on our side our labor will not be in vain. We are ‘Changing the Status Quo’, and it is Changing Lives,” Dr. Darville said.

By LINDSAY THOMPSON/Bahamas Information Services