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Fuad: Health card to clamp down on non-nationals

Sunday, April 6, 2014
Dr Fuad Khan

Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan says the implementation of the National Health Card will clamp down on non-nationals seeking free medical attention at public health institutions. Khan said as far as he knows, the ministry has no policy in place that restricts free healthcare to non-nationals. In the coming weeks, Khan said, Government will roll out the cards, which would generate a policy that would allow medical services to only nationals and some non-nationals who work here.



“They have been coming here (non-nationals) for a long time. It creates an increase utilisation of the healthcare system. So that is why I am putting the health card in place so we could determine who are the beneficiaries for that system. But the emergency system will be a different thing. We can’t stop that...for people to get emergencies.” Khan said the card would generate its own policy to treat with national and non-nationals. “So if you don’t have a health card you cannot get in.”


Khan’s comments came after the death of 35-year-old Guyanese national Jeetindra Sookram, who was denied medical attention at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex on Thursday because he was not a T&T citizen. Khan said the ministry would also put prices on the cost of medical procedures as well. “If I am going for a national health insurance system, I must be able to cost my procedures. Our people would get it for free. Non-nationals would have to pay for it.” 


Khan also advised visitors entering our shores to walk with their insurance. “Maybe we should set up a policy that before you come into the country let us see your medical insurance. Medical insurance is not expensive.”



Mohammed: Insurance will not foster good relationship with Caricom 
Chairman of the North Central Regional Health Authority Shehenaz Mohammed said asking non-nationals to walk with their insurance “does not make sense.” She said this would not foster a good relationship among Caricom countries.



Gopee-Scoon: The matter warrants immediate communication
Former foreign affairs minister Paula Gopee-Scoon said even if someone is in T&T illegally, “I believe there ought to be a human rights obligation to treat with them should a medical emergency arise.” Gopee-Scoon said T&T would certainly want its nationals to be attended to if they fall ill in another country. Healthcare providers, Gopee-Scoon said, should have an obligation to treat anyone in distress. Gopee-Scoon said this matter warrants immediate communication and apologies from T&T.


“I believe Caricom would be of the same view seeing that our islands are a community.”



Gafoor: Recommendations yet to be implemented
Gladys Gafoor, who chaired a Commission of Enquiry into the public health sector, producing an exhaustive report in 2006, said from a humane point of view anyone who is ill should not be denied medical attention. Gafoor said most of the recommendations in the report was yet to be implemented.