Medical tourism under scrutiny in the Barbados Sparman Ishmael case

Canadian medical tourism study team arrives in Barbados

A team of researchers from Simon Fraser University (SFU) is spending the next week looking at medical tourism in Barbados. Professor Jeremy Snyder and his colleagues will talk with medical professionals, patients and representatives from our government and tourism industry. The researchers will tour some of the private medical facilities in Barbados, but we don’t know if they will be touring any of our public health facilities, including the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

We hope the SFU team does tour our public health facilities,  because we believe that part of their report should be about the impact that private health care facilities and medical tourism have upon public health resources – in a country with no conflict of interest laws.

You see folks, many people on this island are concerned that public resources paid for by the taxpayers, are being diverted from public health care to private health care facilities. There are also rumours that some elected and appointed government officials have interests in private medical facilities – but without Freedom of Information laws it is impossible for Barbadians to know.

We don’t even know the amount of government support being given to the private “medical tourism” facilities, or in what forms it is given and received.

And, of course, without conflict of interest rules and integrity legislation it is no crime by public officials to divert public funds to private facilities in which they, or their close family members, are part owners. We might very well have public support flowing into the pockets of the same government officials who dispense the tax dollars to the private clinics!

So to our friends from Vancouver Canada’s Simon Fraser University, we say  “This is normal on de rock. Welcome to Barbados, folks!”

Dr. Ishmael punished for speaking about medical standards, conflicts of interest

The rampant and unregulated conflicts of interest between public health care and private “medical tourism” facilities are at the center of the ongoing battle involving Dr. Richard Ishmael, Health Minister Donville Inniss, Dr. Alfred Sparman, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the Sparman Clinic.

Doctor Ishmael wrote a letter containing serious accusations against Dr. Sparman, the Minister of Health and others – and also revealed a past complaint against Sparman that appears to have been covered up. Minister Inniss and the public health system responded by suspending Doctor Ishmael and rallying in support of Doctor Sparman, who is by all accounts a convicted felon in the USA who had his license to practice medicine lifted.

The Ishmael – Sparman – Inniss battle is still in the Barbados courts, but you can read some background in our previous articles…

December 30, 2010: The Sparman Clinic Affair – Questions about money, conflicts of interest

December 22, 2010: The Sparman Affair: We print Dr. Ishmael’s letter for which he was suspended and sued.

Medical Tourism when there are no standards, no rules

Barbadians saw how concerned the SFU researchers are with maintaining the integrity of their research and report. Undoubtedly the Canadian researchers are operating under clear rules and policies concerning conflicts of interest, receiving gifts or outside payments, or having financial interests in the subjects of their research.

The Simon Fraser University researchers should carefully consider the impacts of operating a health care system in a country where there are no conflicts of interest standards and precious few effective laws or standards about anything else, including the licensing and oversight of medical professionals.

Barbadians have been promised Integrity Legislation, Conflicts of Interest standards and Freedom of Information laws in various flavours since 1966. It was a big issue during the 2007 election campaign and probably pushed the DLP over the top to win. Alas, David Thompson and the Democratic Labour Party played us all for fools again. And we bought what they were promising. Again. Oh well.

Our Canadian researcher friends should also have a look at the disastrous medical tourism episode with the Villa Nova Stem Cell Clinic called Barbados Institute of Regenerative Medicine (IRM).

Yup, former Prime Minister Owen Arthur announced that Barbados was going to be the stem cell research center of the world. Unfortunately the story then broke that healthy Ukrainian newborn babies were murdered to supply body parts to the Barbados clinic. That medical tourism venture didn’t work out too well, but that’s what happens when there are no rules, no transparency and no integrity and conflicts of interest laws.

Conflicts of Interest are no problem in Barbados

As the Simon Fraser University researchers will discover, conflicts of interest in Barbados are no problem because they are not illegal and nobody is ever held accountable for diverting public funds to private ventures in which they have an interest.

We hope that the SFU will seriously look into whether any possible positives for medical tourism for the host country are negated by a system that does not regulate corruption.

Thanks folks… and see you at Oistins on Friday!


Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Consumer Issues, Corruption, Ethics, Freedom Of Information, Health, Political Corruption, Politics, Politics & Corruption

10 responses to “Medical tourism under scrutiny in the Barbados Sparman Ishmael case

  1. Chicago

    BFP said “We don’t even know the amount of government support being given to the private “medical tourism” facilities, or in what forms it is given and received.”

    THERE IS A BIG PROBLEM. It puts the government in a conflict of interest with the public health system. That’s why Doctor Sparman was allowed free access to the foreign patients at the QEH to take them to his clinic. The foreign patients are in trouble far from home, and are vulnerable to suggestion when a “specialist” appears at the hospital. The private clinic costs more money but who wouldn’t pay when their loved one is in trouble?

    Sparman wasn’t licensed to work at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital but the Health Minister let him hunt for patients in the hospital. SHAME!

  2. $$$

    This is an interesting topic.

    In the past I had always associated ‘medical tourism’ with plastic surgery and other perhaps elective procedures, ie. have your procedure and recoup and relax in the sun, etc. But now with soaring medical costs in the US for insurance and Medi-care for non-elective procedures such as heart surgeries this appears to be the avenue for medical tourism, ie.the flight, accomodation, food, rental car and the operation cost 1/3 of the cost of the operation alone in the US.

    I do remember expose’s on the various news programs, 20/20 warning Americans about the risks of medical tourism in foreign countries replete with horror stories of botched operations.

    The disparity in the cost of care never ceases to amaze me though.

    Look at obstetrics when my son was born 6 years ago, a non-risk normal delivery, pre-natal through post natal was nearly $30,OOO.00US, so either you have insurance that you can hardly afford, you are on welfare, or you are filthy rich.

    I do recall a few weeks back a woman being medi-vac’d in to deliver triplets at QEH from another Caribbean Island. I hope that they gave those babies honorary citizenship!!!(That will for sure get me in trouble!)

    If we could get our act together on the transparency and the corruption issues one system would be sufficient. But with the likes of Sparman and the obvious perks that he has received the Bajans that really require serious care will be milked despite the fact their government has guaranteed otherwise.

    Maybe this team from Canada will look at the demographic of those at a private GP versus those at the Polyclinic, that would be an interesting comparison.

  3. prowler

    Well, I hope de Canadiens luk nto de dialysis units while pun de quest. Uh say no mo. Uh gone

  4. Sena

    Did you know that since 1970, the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology has gone to American residents more often than recipients from all other countries combined?

  5. Anti BFP

    BFP is just so good at casting aspertions on the characters of politicians. here are some facts for you.
    1. Dr Sparman has applied on several occasions to work with QEH but he was never approved and his offer letters never acknowledged. Dr Ishmael et al has blocked him every step of the way.
    2. Dr Sparman started to construct his new clinic building under the BLP and applied for duty free concessions for the equipment under the David Thompson regime and they were approved by Thompson when David Estwick was Minister of Health.
    3. Dr Ishmael et al were also granted duty free concessions for equipment for their facilities in the building which is owned by white Bajans. Minister Inniss cussed David Thompson and Darcy Boyce for delaying Ishmaels application! According to what I heard Darcy Boyce said.
    4. No politician on either side nor any of their immediate relatives own shares in the Sparman clinic. I saw the financial records and the bank loan documents as well.
    5. Dr Sparman has never taken any patient away from QEH. What is a fact is that Dr Ishmael and Massay consistently advise public QEH patients to come see them privately, and in many cases charge them quite a bit to do procedures in the QEH, I have two such relatives who costed my family 15k with Ishmael. He did a good job I must say.
    6. The Medical Council, of which Dr Ishmael was a member, and who now include Dr Moe, cardiologist, and is Chaired by Professor Micky Walrond (husband of Beverley Walrond – attorney at law against Sparman – represented his ex) have yet to find Sparman guilty of any wrong doing.
    7. This is all about money. Ishmael et al continue to feel that they are loosing money as a result of Sparman presence on this island. they have tried everything possible to get him off the island.
    8. Minister Inniss had the guts to stand up to his fellow Dem – Ishmael and to late David Thompson and to remind them that if they have any evidence of professional misconduct against Sparman then they should bring it to the Medical Council. He refused to do the nasty work for Sparman or Thompson.
    9. The Ministry of Finance had directed that as a condition for getting duty free concessions, Sparman should offer services at his facilities to QEH. It is the QEH who has refused such an offer. Again influenced by Ishmael.
    10. I do not understand why some doctors do not put patient care ahead of their selfish financial interests?

  6. Sad To Say

    An increasing number of doctors here in Barbados refuse to accept referrals from Sparman, including a prominent neurologist, because he has little credibility in the local medical fraternity. Sparman is all about money. The doctors working at his clinic are urged to and rewarded for over investigating any and every one walking in though their doors. Their salaries are based on a percentage of the income that they generate for the Sparman Clinic. Furthermore, a banker has told me that the Sparman Clinic is having great difficulty in meeting its monthly financial obligations to his institution. Anti BFP talk about the white backers of Ishmael, Sparman Clinic has a major white backer also. When a doctor has to advertise here in Barbados (especially someone who is allegedly the best in his field) in order to attract patients something has got to be seriously wrong.

  7. Happy to Say

    Tell me Sad to Say _ what exacly has Dr Sparman done to merit such vicious attacks from people like yourself. Can you tell me why the Medical council admitted him to practice medicine here about 10 years ago and why they have not found it fit to de-register him?

    Where is your evidence of doctors refusing to take his referrals. That is highly unethetical since it speaks to patient care. It just makes no sense from a medical or financial perspective.

    Dr Denis Bailey and Dr Adelle Belle have both been charged by the DPP for manslaughter. Yet they are still allowed to practice medicine here. is that fair? well a man is innocent until proven guilty

  8. rasta man

    By the way,thought it was against principle for a doctor to advertise his/her services

  9. dedawgster

    Sparman is an illegal alien who is a convicted felon, that’s a fact. He’s an acknowledged QEH ambulance chaser, another fact. He’s too fat to be promoting heart wellness, lose weight lardo. And he can’t shoot.

  10. Keep it Real

    My God!!…I wonder why people hate this Dr. Sparman so?…