Approximately 5,000 persons with diabetes and hypertension are to benefit from free treatment and care under a $100-million pilot programme being undertaken by the Government in collaboration with private practitioners.
Under the Public-Private Partnership for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), non-coronavirus (COVID-19) patients with the chronic conditions who access care at health centres, will be referred to selected private providers.
The objective is to reduce the exposure of these persons to COVID-19.
Health and Wellness Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, in his address at the virtual launch on Tuesday (November 17), said that the initiative will be piloted in eight health centres and four private practices in Clarendon and St. Ann and two in Kingston and St. Andrew, in the first instance.
In outlining the components of the programme, Minister Tufton said that the local health centres will be charged with the task of identifying eligible persons from their registers who will then be referred to the participating private practitioners for continued treatment.
“The health centres will ensure that communication is maintained with the private practitioner and the necessary protocols put in place to refer the patient back to the local health system if the need arises,” he noted.
He said that patients will be able to access diagnostic and monitoring tests free of cost. In addition, prescriptions written by the private providers will be administered by the National Health Fund (NHF) at no cost to patients.
The NHF will facilitate payment to the private providers through its swipe card system.
“This partnership is not asking for persons to leave the health centres where they do not pay, to then go to the private practitioners and pay. [Rather], this is a cost that will be borne by the Government,” Mr. Tufton said.
“Patients will neither pay to see the doctor nor will they pay to access their drugs. This is a very important component of the process,” he noted.
Under the initiative, patients will benefit from four routine care visits and two ad hoc visits annually. Beneficiaries will be vetted based on a pre-assessment of their current health condition as well as their need for regular visits.
“If this changes over time, then there will be a re-evaluation to ensure that these patients get the best possible [care],” the Minister said.
Dr. Tufton said that the pilot represents a model that the Ministry will be expanding on as the country continues to navigate COVID-19.
He noted that about 50 per cent of the 5,000 patients with these chronic conditions, who are registered with public health centres, have their condition under control, and an additional 1,000 beneficiaries can potentially be added to the programme with the inclusion of more private practitioners over time.
He said that the initiative will have the benefit of assisting in restoring comprehensive healthcare delivery in the public health system and ease the burden on the public health centres, while focusing resources on critical cases, particularly in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
Dr. Tufton said that the Government has taken steps to ensure that patients who will be referred from the public health system to these select practitioners will receive the highest quality care through the issuance of the clinical guidelines for the management of diabetes and hypertension, which was developed by the Ministry in collaboration with the Association of Consultant Physicians of Jamaica.
The pilot programme is being led by the Ministry in collaboration with the NHF, the Association of Consultant Physicians of Jamaica, the Association of General Practitioners of Jamaica and the Caribbean College of Family Physicians (CCFP).