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  • The Government is to spend $1 billion on an initiative to address excessive waiting in the public health system.
  • Focus will be placed on reducing the long waits for certain day and inpatient surgeries, diagnostic tests, and bed space shortages.
  • This was announced by Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, during his contribution to the 2019/20 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives, on May 7.

The Government is to spend $1 billion on an initiative to address excessive waiting in the public health system.

Focus will be placed on reducing the long waits for certain day and inpatient surgeries, diagnostic tests, and bed space shortages.

This was announced by Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, during his contribution to the 2019/20 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives, on May 7.

He informed that Professor Archibald McDonald, a trained surgeon and respected academic, will be appointed to oversee this effort.

Dr. Tufton pointed out that currently there are patients waiting over a year for general surgeries, such as hernia.

“It’s not going to kill them, but it places citizens of this country in so much pain. There is downtime from work,” he said.

For other procedures, such as hysterectomies or myomectomies, there are patients waiting for over 10 months, and for surgeries, including radical prostatectomy, patients are waiting for over six months.

“We would be an uncaring government if we did not find a way to respond to this very difficult situation for so many Jamaicans. Those who are poorest are the ones that suffer the most,” Dr. Tufton said.

Under the programme, Jamaicans who are examined in the public health system and approved for diagnostic tests will be given the tests free of charge, even if they have to get them done by an approved private provider.

In the case of surgeries, the Government will look at the priority placement of each surgery and determine a maximum wait time. Similarly, where possible, the Government will outsource those procedures to achieve minimal wait.

Some of these surgeries include hernias; prostate – benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and Cancer; uterine fibroids; haemorrhoids; gallbladder diseases – gallstones and cholecystitis; and orthopaedic procedures.

Diagnostic Services include CT scans; magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); ultrasound; angiography; endoscopy (colonoscopy and urogenital endoscopy); and histopathology.

The billion-dollar intervention will also seek to free up bed space by removing social cases from hospitals and placing them in nursing homes, based on certain criteria.

Dr. Tufton said the large number of social cases in the system is as a result of persons who are fit clinically for discharge from the hospital, but who remain because their relatives have failed to claim them.

“We are going to assess each social case once they are eligible for release. If they are an infirm and have nowhere else to go, we will collaborate with the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, and where there is space available, to transfer these social cases [to infirmaries],” he pointed out.

Additionally, the Minister said the Government is looking at how it can take action against the relatives of some of the persons who have been abandoned at hospitals.

In many instances, he said relatives show up after their family member has died to collect a death certificate in order to claim their assets.

“I have looked at the law and under the National Health Services Act, Section 13, the Minister can intervene and make regulations to force persons who have the responsibility and the means to take their loved ones from these hospitals and take control or charge of these persons,” Dr. Tufton said.

He added that this can also be facilitated through provisions in the Poor Relief Act and Maintenance Act.

Currently, there are 197 social cases in hospitals across the island.