JIS News

Minister of Health and Environment, Rudyard Spencer, has said that the elimination of user fees at public health facilities was a sustainable venture, that would continue to improve.
“This is sustainable (fee removal).there is a team in place that continues to monitor and will be monitoring and whenever there are any deficiencies or problems, we will address those. This is a work in progress and we will continue to improve until it is better,” Mr. Spencer said.
He was speaking at a press conference held at the Ministry’s headquarters in Kingston on April 4, where an update was given on this initiative.
This move has been successful to date, with only minor challenges that the Ministry would address, the Minister said.
“Since Tuesday (April 1).we noticed in some areas, that there was a challenge with respect to dispensing of drugs, because of a critical shortage of pharmacists,” Mr. Spencer revealed, adding that corrective measures will be taken.
“Another challenge is that we are seeing people come with prescriptions since October and November last year.they have said that they are unable to pay for the drugs and so in those instances we have asked the doctors to look at those prescriptions and re-examine those patients and if it becomes necessary, re-issue prescriptions that we will fill at no cost to them,” the Minister said.
Director of Emergency, Disaster Management and Special Services in the Ministry, Dr. Marion Bullock-Ducasse, summed up the progress the initiative has made so far. “The command centre established at the Ministry since April 1, has been monitoring service delivery islandwide. The preparatory activities were carried out as planned.these include the upgrading of some waiting areas, provision of additional seating, sanitary equipment, supplies and pharmaceuticals. The hours of work were extended in 15 health centres islandwide and one community hospital, the Alexandria Community Hospital,” Dr. Bullock-Ducasse informed.
She explained that the workload data was collected on a daily basis, and that “we use the baseline year for 2007 for hospital registrations and this was at 2,151 patients being seen daily. We are seeing similar numbers since the abolition of user fees in total.(in) some facilities such as the Kingston Public Hospital, there were 291 patients registered on the 1st of April and this represented (an) over 90 per cent increase in patients from their baseline of 150 and a similar number was seen on the next day.”
She informed that 2,182 patients were seen in all Types Three to Five health centres, which are the ones monitored on a daily basis, and that on the 2nd of April, it was 2,183 with just a difference of one.
Dr. Bullock-Ducasse said further analysis would continue and that a full statement would be given this week.
All user fees were removed from public health facilities across the island, except the University Hospital of the West Indies, on Tuesday, April 1.
The following services are now free at public health facilities: registration; doctor’s examination; surgeries; medications; diagnostic services; haematology; services for mothers and children, including family planning and pregnancy tests; ambulance service; physiotherapy; blood products, such as blood transfusions and; laboratory tests.

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