The Government intends to continue its no user fee policy at the primary health care level, Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, has assured.
Dr. Ferguson, who was addressing a Kiwanis Club of Constant Spring meeting on February 12, at the Mayfair Hotel in St. Andrew, said the Government came to office with a clear commitment to primary health care.
“This is a community based approach requiring community participation, which in the long run will result in better service and cheaper costs,” the Minister said.
He explained that the cost to care at the secondary level is higher than at the primary level.
“Primary health care can allow us to focus more of our effort on prevention and control of diseases as well as health promotion and education. This approach will invariably lead to reduced disease burden and we hope a reduction in the prevalence of non communicable diseases or lifestyle diseases, which now plague our population,” he emphasised.
Dr. Ferguson also told the Kiwanians of the government’s intention to include all stakeholders in a decision as to whether to reinstate user fees at the secondary and tertiary care levels.
He explained that whatever path the administration chooses, vulnerable groups such as children, some disabled, senior citizens and persons who fall below the poverty line, will not be denied service on the basis of inability to pay.
Dr. Ferguson informed that in reviewing the present policy, the Ministry intends to undertake internal and national consultation with Jamaicans, so that all stakeholders can be a part of the final outcome.
“My mantra is that there has to be a balance between access to service and the provision of quality health care,” he said, while noting that the present pursuit of no user fees is compromising quality care across the health sector.
“There are times in which we need to be fiscally prudent as we are in a very tight budgetary space, especially with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conditionalities that will require us to become even more efficient and effective in the operations of the Government moving forward,” Dr. Ferguson said.
He noted that unless the government is able to find additional funding for the health sector, and people are willing to make a greater sacrifice, it will not be able to provide the type of quality care that Jamaicans deserve and need, to move forward to create the balance between access and quality.