Saint Lucia
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Health and Security Levy to Accelerate Progress to UHC – Jn Baptiste

Health Minister Moses Jn Baptiste.
Health Minister Moses Jn Baptiste.

THE 2.5 percent health and security levy which was recently introduced by government will improve healthcare in Saint Lucia and will accelerate progress towards Universal Health Coverage, Health Minister Moses Jn Baptiste said this week.

Noting that the healthcare sector has its fair share of challenges, Jn Baptiste, during his contribution to the debate on the health and security levy in the parliament on Wednesday, said over the years, the call has been for governments to pay more attention to health care financing.

In 2021, representatives from the World Bank met with government to discuss a number of issues and indicated that Saint Lucia should fast track its move to Universal Health Care (UHC), Jn Baptiste said. 

“A team from the World Bank visited Saint Lucia and in discussions they identified a few areas that government should look into. In the discussions, it was felt that to modernize and reform the health sector in Saint Lucia, (it) is central not only to boost Saint Lucia’s capital and economic development, but also to improve our population health outcomes. It was important the World Bank said, that we accelerate progress towards universal health coverage,” Jn Baptiste stated. 

“Over the decades, public spending in health has been low traditionally. The World Bank, the World Health Organization and others suggest that we should be spending about six percent of our GDP on health. In Saint Lucia, (over the years), we sometimes spend… 3.4 percent, sometimes… four percent of our GDP on health. The call has been for governments to pay more attention to health care financing but not just putting more money in healthcare, but also causing there to be efficiencies,” the minister added.

According to him, commitments to Universal Health Coverage can only be attained “if we increase budgetary allocations to health care reform… so this 2.5 percent levy will assist government and it will assist the Ministry of Health and all of its partners to cause there to be (a) strengthening of linkages between health outputs and also to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare delivery.”

The minister indicated that a plan is already in motion for UHC. And whilst the opposition has condemned the levy, Jn Baptiste said government is merely requesting a small amount from the public. 

Despite the accusations that have been levelled at government, he said, citizens continue to show their support for them. 

“We have heard the opposition criticizing the attempt by this government to ask the people of Saint Lucia to contribute to health reform, to contribute to projects and the improvements in healthcare in this country, and to also contribute to citizen security. All kinds of accusations have been levelled… but… we know the people of Saint Lucia believe that this government is on the right track,” Jn Baptiste said. 

He added that the plan is “to cause us to be on a solid and purposeful path towards Universal Health Coverage. We want to ensure that we can clearly state to the people of Saint Lucia what the healthcare financing options are. The major problem has been how do we finance Universal Health Coverage and what are we doing about this? We continue consultations, the development of a white paper, working with the World Bank, local consultants and other partners to ensure that very soon we can present to the Cabinet of Ministers and to the people of Saint Lucia the various financing options for the long-term sustainability of Universal Health Care.”