Members of the Opposition criticized the Government and the BVI Health Services Authority for what is deemed to be a stern approach for the collection of outstanding bills.
The Opposition members alleged that persons who are unable to pay the monies owed to Peebles Hospital are being forced to find what they owe, even if it means selling their land or making bank loans.
The charge against the Health Services Authority was made during the 7 January edition of the VIP radio show. Chairman of the Virgin Islands Party, Hon. Julian Fraser was the first to comment on the matter: “The report I am hearing is that people are being forced, encouraged or being volunteered to trade their lands for healthcare. This then speaks to some aggressive and at times, heavy-handed tactics being used by the BVI Health Services Authority to collect outstanding debts.”
Hon. Fraser, in laying some of the blame on the Government, said: “The hospital is now a statutory body and it’s being run in some instances like a business, fine; but Government has a responsibility. The Government owns the hospital, they transferred it.”
The VIP Chairman said that Government should have ensured that there was no perimeter for such payment fulfilling tactics to be employed: “Make sure that, in the process of transferring that hospital to this statutory body, these heavy-handed tactics are not employed upon some people who are in no position, no position whatsoever to pay these bills that they have incurred,” Hon. Fraser said.
He also called on the Government to intervene in the matter: “Government has to step in. I have always spoken about this; compassion for our people comes first. We were elected by the people to serve them, to make their lives better than it was when we took office; not to make it more miserable. I am going to look into the tactics being used in collecting the citizens of this territory that use the facilities called the hospital and whatever other healthcare that they use that belong to government. I am not saying that people should have a free ride, but don’t make the ride bumpy,” Hon. Fraser added.
Pundits are of the view that it is the duty of the Government to secure adequate health services and health care to the citizens and residents of the Territory. They say health care is number one priority when life is at risk and it should never be a matter of money: unfortunately it too often is, and when patients are hours away from losing their life their family members are not talking about life but about money.
Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Ralph T. O’Neal also commented on the matter, and stated that it wasn’t that some people didn’t want to pay, but he said that some people just don’t have the means to: “There are some people who cannot afford to pay, and you will have them in [our]society. Everybody doesn’t have the same money rating, and some people haven’t been making money now for months,” Hon. O’Neal announced.
Following these comments, Premier Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith accused the Virgin Islands Party members of making outlandish claims against his Government. Namely, the accusation that the BVI Health Services Authority was employing high-handed tactics to collect outstanding payments.
In his response the Premier advised listeners to remember that it is election campaign time and urged the public to filter what they hear: “As we enter election season you will hear more and more outlandish accusations and claims against my government, I ask that you take these with a grain of salt and do your own research,” the BVI Leader suggested.
Hon. Smith also predicted that much will be said against his Government; as the campaigning begins: “Everything you hear will not be true, but will be levelled against my administration to gain points with those members of the electorate who may not have the time or the inclination to investigate the claims; and who will not understand the biased motivation from which they arise. As my mother used to say, make sure to pick sense from nonsense.”