Health services in Barbados are best measured by the latest (2007-08) United Nations Human Development Index (HDI), which rates this tiny island at 31 of out 159 countries in the world.
The HDI measures life expectancy, standard of living, literacy, education and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita for countries worldwide.
It is a standard means of measuring well-being, especially child welfare and the impact of economic policies on quality of life.
According to the 2008 HDI, Barbados life expectancy is 76.6 years (compared with 77.9 for the United States).
On the ground in Barbados, there are two main hospitals, two medical centres, dozens of well-equipped private and public clinics around the island and well over 100 private doctors in practice.
The 600-bed, state-funded Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), established 44 years ago, offers the broadest range of services, including a 24-hour accident and emergency. It accounts for more than 90% of the acute care beds in Barbados.
The QEH is well-equipped and doubles as a teaching hospital, a part of the 64-year-old Faculty of Medical Sciences of the University of the West Indies (UWI). The hospital is used by the UWI largely for pre-clinical training and internships for medical graduates.
There is also the smaller, privately owned Bayview Hospital, just outside the capital, Bridgetown, offering more personalized attention. Except for accident and emergency, this 19-year-old institution offers similar services, including surgery of various types.
The hospitals are supported by a string of government-run Polyclinics, largely daytime health centres for routine health ailments. The traditional public health services covered include maternal and child health, communicable disease control and dental health.
There is one full-service private medical centre, the modern 24-hour Sandy Crest on the Barbados west coast and the older FMH Emergency Centre just outside of the capital, open 8am-midnight daily, except bank holidays.
Sandy Crest advertises "five star" services offered by consultant-grade doctors, a large asthma bay and a well equipped children's playroom.
The 600-bed Barbados Psychiatric Hospital, in the parish of St. Michael, also provides outpatient services, day care programs, specialized professional services (social work, psychology, psychotherapy, occupational therapy), and consultation services at the QEH.
In addition, Barbados operates a string of government-funded Geriatric centres that provide care for the aged.
The Government operates the Barbados Drug Service that controls the importation and distribution of essential drugs in the country, the objective being to ensure that Barbadians receive affordable, quality drugs and pharmaceuticals.
The service provides a wide range of key drugs to senior citizens free of charge.
Author: Brett Callaghan