St. Vincent & Grenadines Medical Insurance
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a multi-island Caribbean nation, located within a larger island chain known as the Windward Islands. This 389 square kilometer territory consists of one large island called Saint Vincent and, to the south, a smaller chain of islands called the Grenadines. St Lucia lies to the north of Saint Vincent, with Barbados to the east. The population of the islands is in the region of 120,000 people and the country has a high population density ratio - in excess of 300 people per square kilometer. Bele music, reggae and storytelling are integral parts of the local tradition and culture. The islands enjoy a pleasant tropical climate throughout the year with two distinct seasons. The dry season (December to May) is hot and sunny during the day and cool at night. The wet season (June to November) brings heavy rainfall in mountainous areas and short heavy showers on the coast. Tropical cyclones frequently develop during the wet season and have been known to cause considerable damage to property and infrastructure.
English is the nation’s official language, although most Vincentians also speak a local dialect known as Creole. A developing services sector and, in particular, a growing tourism industry are positively contributing to its developing economy, while also reducing pressure on the reliance on the agriculture sector, specifically the banana trade. Despite these recent economic successes, the annual unemployment rate in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines remains high and in the region of 22 per cent. Political independence from Great Britain was achieved in 1979 with the government continuing to use the British style democracy system with elections every five years. The most recent election was held in 2010.
The government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, through the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, provides a two tiered health care system consisting of primary and secondary level care. The Ministry of Health has divided the country into 9 administrative health districts. Within these districts, 39 primary level health care centers operate; each center is staffed with nurses, assistants and aides who operate a 24 hour duty service and are capable of delivering general care and home visits, emergency and school health services.
Secondary level care in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is offered at six public hospitals, including Kingstown General Hospital, Maryfield Hospital, Lowmans and Bequia Casualty Hospital, Port Elizabeth, and three privately owned hospitals. Kingstown General Hospital (also known as the Million Cato Memorial Hospital) is a 209-bed hospital offering basic medical care, referral care and some specialist care. The delivery of care is organized into seven departments; these are Accident and Emergency, Out-patient Department, Surgery, Medicine, Operating Theatre, Pediatric and Obstetrics/Gynecology. For further specialist care it may be necessary to be evacuated by air ambulance to Barbados, Trinidad or the United States. Five rural hospitals provide primary and acute care that does not require specialist intervention.
In comparison to developed nations, medical facilities on Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are basic and limited. Visitors seeking medical treatment should be aware that cash payment is required in advance by all hospitals and medical centers. Consequently, all visitors and expatriates in the country are strongly recommended to purchase travel and international medical insurance, which should include emergency evacuation in the event advanced treatment, or transport overseas, is required.
The Ministry of Health is responsible for distribution of funds across the entire health care sector. The Government’s contribution to health care has been considerable, with overall health spending running at approximately 12 per cent of the annual budget or approximately 5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Other contributors to health sector funding include the private sector, other government departments, and individual households.
The government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines recently announced its intention to examine conditions for creating a National Health Insurance Plan (NHIP). The aims of this plan are to create additional streams of external income which will then be reinvested in the country’s medical infrastructure, resulting in improved levels of health care. Continued improvements in the levels of care are a main policy goal of the Department of Health. As with all developing countries within the Caribbean region, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, in conjunction with the United Nations, announced specific Millennium Development Goals (MDG) with the stated aim that by 2015 the government will have taken significant steps to reduce poverty levels, ensure access to basic education, reduce the nation’s high illiteracy rate, and to bring HIV/AIDS and other diseases under control. St. Vincent and the Grenadines remains a low HIV-Prevalence country with an estimated 0.4 per cent infection rate among the general population. The HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Program, established as part of the MDG, continue to make notable progress in a number of areas.
Visitors to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are advised to seek medical advice before traveling. Vaccinations recommended for the region include: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Influenza, and Typhoid. All short term visitors and tourists should ensure previous vaccinations are up-to-date, and are advised to carry a basic medical kit as well as antibiotics to treat travelers’ diarrhea. Travelers who are taking regular medications should bring sufficient quantities to last for the duration of their trip, and ensure that they are correctly labeled; they should not expect to obtain prescription or over-the-counter drugs in local stores or pharmacies.
Dengue fever is widespread in the Caribbean region and is the most common cause of fever related illness contracted by visitors to the area. Symptoms consist of sudden onset of fever, headache, muscle aches, and a rash. Dengue is transmitted via the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito which is most active during daylight hours. All travelers are at risk and should take appropriate measures to prevent insect bites, such as wearing trousers and long sleeve shirts and applying effective insect repellent. There is no vaccination or medication to prevent or treat dengue and visitors who exhibit symptoms of the fever should seek appropriate medical advice.
Despite increasing numbers of tourists, and divers in particular, traveling to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, there is no decompression chamber available within the country. If a diver encounters difficulties and requires a decompression chamber, emergency air evacuation to Barbados is necessary. Divers visiting Saint Vincent and the Grenadines should ensure their international health insurance includes cover for diving related healthcare needs including emergency medical evacuation.
Petty street crime occurs in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and property has occasionally been stolen from yachts anchored in the Grenadines. Visitors interested in trekking or nature hikes in northern areas of St. Vincent should contact a local tour operator and make arrangements for a guide as these areas are isolated and the local police presence is limited. Counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available although strict enforcement of customs procedures can result in these items being removed from your luggage. Visitors requiring emergency services can contact 911/999 for assistance.
Individuals, families and groups visiting Saint Vincent and the Grenadines should ensure they are sufficiently covered for all medical circumstances, including those where air ambulance or medical evacuation may be required. Purchasing comprehensive travel and medical cover is strongly advised. For more information about the products and services Pacific Prime can offer, or to receive a free health insurance quote, please contact one of our dedicated advisers today.