The healthcare industry remains one of the largest and fastest growing industries in the world…
By Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, August 4, 2022 – Some TCI residents are expressing concern about medical services on the island and rallied in what they call a “Lord help us” protest early last week.
The group gathered at the Providenciales morgue with black signs lamenting the lack of an intensive care unit and other medical services in the country.
Some of the signs simply read “Help” in red, bold letters. One of the protesters wore a crown while others marched with a makeshift coffin. Residents say they were tired of the lack of a proper intensive care unit and being sent overseas for treatment.
The lack of an intensive care unit on the island means critical patients have to be flown overseas to receive care through the National Health Insurance Overseas Treatment Program (TAP) . This is a process that includes finding and contacting a doctor/facility overseas to treat the person, waiting for confirmation, and transferring the patient by plane or medical ambulance, which takes precious time.
Only patients who cannot be treated at local TCI InterHealth Canada hospitals are approved for the treatment abroad program.
There have been slippages in the system before and the government has set up a tribunal to hear complaints from those who believe they have not been treated properly. The Appeals Tribunal of the National Insurance Council became active on June 28e2022 and handles appeals regarding treatment abroad and other issues, including refunds.
Health Minister Jamell Robinson had said that once an overseas referral was confirmed by the Joint Referral Committee and a regional doctor accepted the case, the person would be free to leave for seek treatment unless she is dissatisfied. If they were, they would have 21 days to appeal. Contributors with older cases were encouraged by the minister to file them with the NHIB so that the newly created tribunal could assess them.
“We’re giving a window for these older cases to be ‘acquired’.” Robinson had explained, but everything else after that has to abide by the 21-day rule.
Turks and Caicos hospitals also announced in late June that they were working to set up an intensive care unit on the island, but the process is complex and cannot be rushed. A case study is being developed for presentation to the TCI government.
InterHealth Canada CEO Dr. Denise Braithwaite Tennant explained that developing a business case for an intensive care unit takes time, due to the complexity of staffing, functional programming, infrastructure complexity and many other areas that need to be completed carefully.
Despite the difficulty, TCI Hospitals said it was aggressively campaigning for the ICU and expects the government to have the business case completed by the end of 2022.
For this group of protesters, the news may be welcome, but they are making their voices heard on the issue. Currently, the Turks and Caicos Islands is investing tens of millions of dollars in the overseas treatment program, which is partly funded by contributions from National Health Insurance contributors and the government subsidy from the deficit.