Government has launched a new health care programme where patients who have been waiting in public hospitals for more than three months will now be able to get treatment or surgery at private medical institutions.
Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan said the External Patient Programme (EPP) is intended to reduce the backlog of people due for surgeries who are waiting for more than three months at the nation’s hospitals.
He launched the EPP yesterday at Park Street, Port of Spain.
Among those present were Permanent Secretary Christine Sookram, acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Colin Furlonge and EPP programme administrator Beesham Seetaram. Khan noted that about $20 million was spent on radiotherapy, $6.7 million for dialysis and $36 million for cardio treatment in hospitals.
Commenting on the EPP, Khan said: “It is targeted at people who are in hospitals for more than three months. They are awaiting pathology reports. In some cases, they have to wait for months for it to come from abroad. We are hoping to include dental services. It is an initiative of the Cabinet to deal with the long waiting list.”
A note on the Ministry’s pamphlet said: “EPP is an initative aimed at ensuring quality and timely healthcare and its Phase One services include cataract surgery, knee and hip replacement, CT scans and MRI.”
During the question-and-answer segment of the launch Khan said: “After more than three months at the public hospital, you can enter the private hospital.”
He said the programme would have “a total cost”.
Khan also spoke about the People’s Partnership’s plans to build hospitals at Arima and Point Fortin and the Oncology Centre.
Elaborating on the “total costs” attached to the EPP initative, Seeteram said, “The ministry was not just paying for a surgery. Once you qualify for the programme, you will select and go to the institution. The patient will get the pre-surgery and the post-surgery treatment. When they are finished, they will be discharged with a full medical report having completed all care with respect to that particular surgery. We are looking at the full package in terms of the surgery.”
Seeteram added, “Before they would have paid a certain sum for surgery like cataracts. The difference will be the cost of the post-surgery care. We are not paying a bill because you have performed a surgery. We are paying the bill because you have treated a patient with all the relevant healthcare.”
Sookram said apart from cataracts and CT scans, there were plans were to introduce other surgeries.
Furlonge said the initiative was intended to ease the burden on the Regional Health Authorities (RHAs).
“We would ensure sub-specialist training, overseer, monitor and evaluate this programme. We will use it to build human resources and coordinate patients. We agreed to meet and assist patients with their respective needs,” said Furlonge.
Application forms are available at All Offices of the County Medical Officers of Health or online at www.health.gov.tt/epp
People can contact the Ministry of Health at 627-0010 extension 1605/1607/1610/1325