JIS News

Since the abolition of hospital user fees in April 2008, there has been a steady increase in the use of public health care services, ranging from 17 to 32 per cent.
Drawing attention to this, in his opening presentation in the 2010/2011 budget debate in the House of Representatives today (April 8), Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Audley Shaw, said the no user fee system is an enhancement of the social safety net and there would be no change to this system.
In the financial year prior to the introduction of the no user fee system some
1,485, 993 visits to health centres were recorded, while in 2008/09 visits totaled
1,728,570 and 1,614,246 in 2009/2010. Some 739,393 persons were seen for pharmacy services in 2007/08, compared with 843,691 in 2008/09 and 973,178 in 2009/10.
Persons admitted to Accident and Emergency Departments in public hospitals numbered 89,292 in 2008/09, and 91,924 in 2009/10. This compares with 94,162 in 2007/08.
Turning to other areas of the government’s thrust to enhance social assistance,
Mr. Shaw pointed to the importance of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF). He said the Fund enables Members of Parliament to be more responsive to individual and community needs, including minor water supplies and trucking of water during the ongoing drought conditions.
Meanwhile, he noted the doubling of the income tax threshold last year from $220,000 to $440,000, as another element of enhancing the social safety net.
“It means that the average PAYE worker who is at that level, is taking home an additional $55,000 per year as a result of the increase of the income tax threshold,” he stated.
Mr. Shaw said other social programmes are being enhanced, including the NHT, the CHASE Fund, Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) activities, Sports Development Foundation. He noted that the 125 per cent increase in projected expenditure for the JSIF, and a 26 per cent increase for the NHF in this year’s budget.
“When all these social programmes are combined, it is undeniable that the support to hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans through PATH, the CDF, and social benefit organisations represent an unprecedented level of support of uplifting the life of Jamaicans across the board,” Minister Shaw stated.

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