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Minister of Health and Environment, Rudyard Spencer, said that measures are being devised to increase the number of beneficiaries under the National Health Fund (NHF) and the Jamaica Drug for the Elderly Programme (JADEP).
The Minister, who was addressing the NHF’s annual awards ceremony held on Monday (Nov. 24) at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge, said that beneficiaries under NHF and JADEP stand at 193,364 and 189,853, respectively.
“Thousands of Jamaicans with illnesses that are covered under NHF are still not benefitting. We have an aging population and only a fraction of that population is benefitting from JADEP. I am instructing the Board of the NHF to explore ways in which partnerships can be strengthened within and without the public sector, to ensure that Jamaicans, who should be benefitting, are benefitting under these two programmes,” the Minister stated.
He called for an effective partnership with faith-based and other institutions to register persons over 60 years of age for JADEP. “The disabled, shut-ins, those in homes for the elderly, those in deep rural Jamaica and those in the inner cities must be registered. In the same way that we find them to exercise their Constitutional right to vote, we must find them so that they can benefit from the social programmes of the Government. We must also make it easy for them to access these services,” he continued.
Noting the increase in chronic diseases among Jamaicans, the Minister instructed the board and management of the NHF “to go back to the drawing board and examine the current offers in the area of non communicable diseases, with a view to expanding the services and allowing more persons access and benefit. I want a comprehensive programme covering research, capacity building, pharmaceutical services, public education and the provision of equipment to individuals and institutions from the NHF before the next financial year”.
He outlined that the programme must include capacity enhancement and public awareness at the primary care level and improving the nutrition and physical education programmes in schools.
He noted that the NHF has begun screening high school students. “I support the initiative and would recommend that the NHF make this a formal programme through a partnership with the Ministry of Education,” he said.
Lauding the work of the NHF in providing Jamaicans with access to affordable drugs, the Health Minister informed that up to the end of November, prescriptions filled exceeded $4 million with a total value of over $3.1 billion. “This represents on average, 58 per cent of patient cost,” he disclosed.
Acting Chief Executive Officer of the NHF, Hugh Lawson, noted that the Fund remains committed to providing “positive contribution to you our providers and the wider health fraternity as we seek to continue our mission of reducing the burden of healthcare in Jamaica.”
The NHF provides assistance to persons to purchase specific prescription drugs used in the treatment and management of designated chronic illnesses. The Fund, which started operations in 2003, also conducts an intensive public information programme, to educate the public about chronic illness prevention and management.