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Finance and Public Service Minister, Audley Shaw, has said that efforts were being made to enhance provisions in the 2009/10 Budget to procure pharmaceuticals for dispensing in public health facilities.
This move, he said, comes against the background of reports and discussions with stakeholders in the health sector, including Health and Environment Minister, Rudyard Spencer, which indicate a significant increase in the demand for drugs since the abolition of user uses.
Addressing the contract signing and launch of the sixth cycle of the Basic Needs Trust Fund at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston on Monday (March 16), Mr. Shaw noted that it was this increase in demand that was primarily responsible for overcrowding at health facilities.
He noted that, “previously, the doctors… at the hospitals would simply prescribe a drug. It would (perhaps not) be available, and they (patients) would go… because they can’t afford to get it from the private pharmacy (or) they go to their Member of Parliament to try to get a little help. If they can’t get any help, they end up going home with either or some of the drugs they need, or none.”
He said that even as the Government moves to enhance that financing, “we also have to ensure that we source drugs at cheaper costs, internationally, and that can be done. So, we are going to be working on those fronts.”
In the meantime, he said that mechanisms would be put in place to deal with fraud in the dispensing of drugs, noting that “some people are apparently getting illegally written prescriptions to go and get certain types of drugs, and then take those onto the black market to sell.”
He indicated that the Health Minister would address that matter at an appropriate time.
The Basic Needs Trust Fund is a Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) initiative, which was commenced 24 years ago, and seeks to assist low-income communities in planning and implementing projects to improve access to essential services through the provision of social and economic infrastructure, and opportunities to develop the skills to enhance employability.
Jamaica is one of 10 borrowing member countries, which will benefit from upwards of US$50 million in grant funding under cycle six of the programme. Jamaica has benefited significantly under cycle five, which ends in 2010.
To date, some 22 projects have been completed under the programme, administered under the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), at a cost of $168 million.

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