Patients are our first priority
The British Virgin Islands Health Services Authority (BVIHSA) is a semi-autonomous, statutory body that oversees the Territory’s main hospital, the new Peebles Hospital on Tortola, and nine community clinics on the islands of Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda, and Anegada. The BVIHSA is part of the Territory’s National Health Insurance scheme and, as the preferred provider of health services to the island’s residents and guests, its funding comes through the Social Security Board.
The BVIHSA is managed by a Board of Directors appointed by the Minister of Health and Social Development and is administered by CEO, Darlene Carty-Baptiste, who joined the BVIHSA in 2012, with over 20 years of experience in medical and healthcare services. It employs 625 people, making it the Territory’s second largest employer, and has an estimated budget of $40 million. Its services include: Audiology, Emergency, Hemodialysis, Infection & Prevention Control, Laboratory Services, Medical Imaging, Nutrition and Dietetics, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, Social Services, General Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Pediatric Care.
According to Carty-Baptiste, the Territory’s National Health Insurance (NHI) system is similar to that of the United Kingdom’s. Legal residents of the BVI must make a mandatory contribution of 3.75 percent of their earnings up to the Social Security maximum threshold of US $5,791.50, in order to be covered by National Health Insurance. Employers of those persons are assessed an additional 3.75 percent of their worker’s salary. Treatment received under NHI is subject to a lifetime cap of US$1,000,000, but individuals remain subject to a five percent co-pay at Peebles Hospital. There is no co-pay requirement for treatment at a community health clinic.
Those persons without the means to contribute to the NHI, after going through the Ministry of Health and Social Development’s means testing, plus children under the age of 16, police officers, firemen, prison officers, public health workers, the mentally ill, and prisoners, are not required to pay into the system. “Regardless of one’s inability to pay, no one is turned away,” says Carty-Baptiste. “This applies to visitors to the BVI, as well. For us, the focus is on patient and quality.”
When Carty-Baptiste came aboard to run the BVIHSA, two of her major objectives were to oversee the transition into the new state-of-the-art, Peebles Hospital facility, and, at the same time, to implement the National Health Insurance scheme, which has allowed an additional 30 to 35 percent of the Territory’s islanders to be covered, providing them with access to healthcare services. Now that those first two priorities have been accomplished, she is moving toward her third mandate: assuring accreditation for the Territory’s healthcare system.
“We’re looking to be an accredited facility in the next 18 to 24 months,” she explains. We’ve done both: JCI, which is Joint Commission International, and we’ve done DNV (Det Norske Veritas) International. So we just finished both surveys and we’re trying to see which one would be the best fit for us in the international market. It speaks to our beside care, the way we handle inspections, and the way persons are referred out of the Territory, because the continuity of care is really important. So we meet all the national or international standards that any hospital in the US or the UK would meet.”
Becoming accredited also helps the Territory assure visitors that its healthcare system is top notch. “And that attracts tourists,” Carty-Baptiste adds. “It puts us in the ranking of high-quality care. One thing that we’re noticing, especially in the outer islands – the high-end tourist, those persons who have high medical knowledge, and are coming in with pre-existing conditions – they are querying us prior to scheduling their vacations. And seeing the gold seal, they see that a particular service is meeting the US or UK standards.”
Other items on Carty-Baptiste’s to-do list include working with Tortola’s one private hospital, the Bougainvillea Clinic, to develop a physician enterprise in order to ensure that patient services are not being duplicated, while risk and accountability are being shared; and helping to promote medical tourism, wherein patients from outside the Territory come to the BVI for medical services. In addition, she says that she would like to consolidate the community clinics from nine down to five, while concurrently increasing the level of services at those clinics in order to keep people out of the hospital whenever possible.
In the end, however, Carty-Baptiste insists that BVIHSA’s main priority will always be focused on patient care. “The healthcare industry is evolving and we’ve grown exponentially over the last four years,” she remarks. “So, it’s really important for us to maintain our position within the healthcare sector in the BVI, but also stay focused on the patient. Everything else leads to that priority.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: The British Virgin Islands Health Services Authority
WHAT: The statutory body that oversees the Territory’s healthcare providers
WHERE: Tortola, British Virgin Islands
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