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
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!