Health Minister Dismisses Concern about Funds for Hospital


Minister of Health, Horace Dalley has dismissed concerns that the Government cannot afford to provide the funds necessary for the Bustamante Hospital for Children, in light of the implementation of the new health care policy for 18 year olds and under. The new policy, which was implemented yesterday (May 28), stipulates that minors will be exempt from paying health care fees, including registration, medication, surgery and diagnostic services.
“On behalf of the government of Jamaica, on behalf of the Prime Minister, the Most Honourable Portia Simpson-Miller, on behalf of the Cabinet, I say to you, we can afford it and we have made arrangements to ensure that the Bustamante Hospital for Children will receive the amount that they collected last year, plus their projections for this year,” he said at a briefing at the Bustamante Hospital for Children to mark the start of the new policy.
As it stands, the government plans to provide the hospital with $100 million to ensure that it will not fall short of the financial resources that are needed. The figure was calculated based on the $96 million that was collected in user fees by the hospital last year.
While indicating that the health professionals in the sector had expressed commitment to making the policy work, the Minister admitted that challenges in the health services remained. “Some of the health centres need to be repaired. we are short of nurses and short of doctors. These are no secrets. We have to try and improve,” he added.
The government, he said, remained committed to its hospital modernization programme. “Cornwall Regional Hospital is receiving attention. At the Black River Hospital, we have put in a new operating centre.we have spent over $300 million to basically build a new hospital at Falmouth with services for the people in Trelawny,” he pointed out.
The Minister also mentioned that plans were underway to build another hospital for children in Western Jamaica at the behest of the Prime Minister. “The Prime Minister has announced that she needs another hospital in western Jamaica with facilities for mothers to stay with their children, so we are designing that hospital,” he informed.
“Somebody has to pay and we have to find the money from the budget to ensure that our people receive good health care,” he stressed.
Turning to the debate on free health care for all, the Minister noted that providing free health care for the most vulnerable in the society was a good start; however, the government could not provide free health care to every Jamaican citizen at this time.
“We have started with our children 18 years and under. that is over 35 per cent of the population. This will be a start to ensure that the next generation is healthier and that those chronic diseases that we have seen emerging so seriously, we will see them declining as result of this new start,” he said.
Meanwhile, Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester said that she was heartened by the innovation and that it would go a long way in providing care for Jamaica’s children. “As a country we are investing in the health of our children and young people and that is our future generation. Of course those of us who are getting older will look back in time to say that we invested well,” she said.
“I am asking parents to be very understanding and also that the country trusts us to make sure that this innovation grows and is perfected over time,” she implored.
With respect to the quality of service, Dr. Campbell-Forrester assured that clients should expect nothing but the best quality of service and reminded parents to play an active role in ensuring that the service is satisfactory. She encouraged them to be watchdogs and to report to the Ministry when the service is otherwise.
“The Ministry stands firm and resolute that it will provide the services for our children and young people,” she said.

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