JIS News

Minister of Health and Environment, Rudyard Spencer has assured that all relevant stakeholders have been engaged regarding the removal of user fees at public health facilities, except the University Hospital of the West Indies.
He said all are now onboard and committed to ensuring that the policy succeeds. “We have met with every critical player in healthcare in Jamaica especially those working with the Ministry of Health and Environment,” he said at a recent press conference on the impending abolition of the user fees, held at the Ministry’s King Street offices.
The groups include the Medical Association of Jamaica, Nurses Association of Jamaica, Jamaica Medical Doctors’ Association and the Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica.
“We have met with the paramedics, various Councils and we have met on this very floor [Lobby of the Ministry] with all staff members of the Ministry of Health, all in an effort to bring about the team spirit and the understanding that is needed for the way forward,” he pointed out.
The Minister also added that the stakeholders were all aware that Jamaicans urgently need access to healthcare without being hindered by cost.
It is against this background, he noted, that local healthcare was on the cusp of a new era effective April 1. “This move by the Government must be seen as the single most significant policy intervention in the social sector in Jamaica over the last 30 years,” he added.
Among the aims of the policy are: the removal of a major impediment to poor Jamaicans accessing healthcare; leveling the playing field as far as health in the public sector is concerned for the haves and haves not; hastening the repositioning of primary healthcare as the foundation of any good and sustainable health system.
It also seeks to free some categories of staff from having to carry out assessment of patients and collecting monies, so that they can concentrate on patient and customer care; and, challenge policymakers and techno-bureaucrats to explore alternative financing and service delivery models.
“Let me point out that the abolition of user fees will not by itself wish away systemic problems of the public health sector. What the policy aims to do is to infuse in all of us, a sense of urgency and fixity of purpose, in tackling the problems in a strategic, systematic, focused and consistent manner,” the Minister said.
Overall, the abolition of user fees forms part of a larger and comprehensive health policy, which the Minister said would be elaborated on during his contribution to the Budget Debate in May.
“I will present to the country our [Ministry’s] vision of what healthcare [in Jamaica] ought to be and about some of the things we intend to do. Every team member before that presentation is made will be up to speed as to what the Ministry is pursuing,” he informed.
It is expected that the user fee policy will be completed in the new financial year and will provide the strategic parameters within which the Ministry must move forward in order to fulfill its mandate.
Meanwhile, Minister Spencer said that the health of the nation must be seen to have strategic importance to the economic, developmental and social prospects of Jamaica.
“Vision 2030, Jamaica: A place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business, will not be achieved in an environment of ill-health. The achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals is at risk if we fail to move Jamaica’s health sector from being good, to very good to very great,” he asserted.
In the meantime, the National Health Services (Fees) Regulations will be amended to reflect the new policy.
Effective April 1, a number of services will be available to the public without charge including but not limited to doctor’s examination, hospital stay, diagnostic services (x-rays and lab tests of various kinds), drugs, physiotherapy, surgeries, immunization, antenatal care, renal dialysis, drugs for chemotherapy, radiation treatment, certain high cost diagnostic services for example, magnetic resonance imaging.