Private hospitals will now have to pay big bucks for licences to operate their facilities, as announced by Finance Minister Colm Imbert as he delivered the 2018 budget yesterday in the Lower House.
Private hospitals have been paying a fee of $150 per year to apply for a licence, however, Imbert said he saw it fit to raise the bar by several thousands of dollars for different classifications of the health institutions.
Imbert said the Private Hospitals Act stated a written application for a licence to operate a private hospital must be made to the Minister of Health, and be accompanied by the appropriate licence fee based on the classification of the private institution.
The fee, as well as penalties, have been “far too low” given the high cost of private health care, Imbert said as he disclosed the increases.
“For institutions classified as medical, surgical and maternal hospitals with less than 30 beds, the fee would move from $150 to $25,000.
For hospitals with 30 beds, but less than 60 beds, the fee would be $50,000, and for hospital with 60 beds or over the fee would go to $100,000.”
The minister said these measures would not be applicable to institutions classified as hospitals for the convalescent, homes for the elderly, or hospitals for any designated disease or specified disorder or illness. He said these institutions will continue to pay the existing fee of $150 per year.
“I also propose to increase the penalty for persons found guilty of an offence under the Private Hospitals Act from the current, very low $10,000 to $100,000, and an increase in penalty for a continuing offence from $200 a day to $1,500.
These measures will require amendments to the Private Hospitals Act and will take effect from January 1, 2018,” Imbert said.
Opposition member of Parliament and former health minister Dr Fuad Khan, who also practised at a private hospital, said he saw nothing wrong with the fee increases for private hospitals.
“The thing about it is if you were paying $150 before as opposed to now paying $25,000 and so on, I personally do not see anything wrong with it because at the end of the day you have to follow the Private Hospitals Act first.
You can’t just put a price on a private hospital and don’t have an Act to protect them, so one hand don’t clap,” Khan said.
“At the end of the day, the cost factor is going to transfer down to the patients and they would have to pay more for private health, bank fees are going to increase...when gas prices increase everything is going to increase too.”
Imbert allocated $6.03 billion towards the health sector and it some of that may go towards the completion of the two new hospitals currently under construction in Arima and Pt Fortin.
He said the construction of the Arima Hospital was ongoing and was 35 per cent complete.
The original cost was $1.85 billion, but Government was able to reduce the figure to $1.6 billion, saving $250 million, he said, adding the 260-bed hospital was expected to be completed by 2019.
Construction of the Pt Fortin Hospital, also due to be completed in 2019, is to be sourced from an export credit agreement, Imbert said.
However, pending the execution of that agreement the project was being funded through budgetary allocation, as well as a short term loan raised on the domestic market.
Imbert said Government is searching for a suitable operator for the Couva Hospital and expected the facility would be commissioned in 2018.
“It must be advised that the operational costs of each these new hospitals would run into several hundred million dollars per year and funding would have to be provided.
I did an analysis of the Couva Hospital and it would cost $430 million a year.”