Increase in User Fees at Public Health Facilities


Effective Monday, January 24, Jamaicans utilising the services offered by the country’s health facilities will be required to pay increased fees for services rendered to them.
This was announced today (January 21) by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Grace Allen-Young.
She explained that the increases would enhance income generation for the Ministry, which in turn would be used to upgrade the country’s 20 hospitals and 400 health facilities.
Speaking at a press briefing, held at the Ministry of Health’s offices in downtown Kingston, the Permanent Secretary said based on the revision of the schedule of hospital user fees, the Ministry anticipated that it would be able to collect an estimated $400 million in revenues.
She pointed out that the expected revenue intake would also go towards improving the delivery of healthcare by way of the procurement of drugs and supplies and to maintain equipment.
Mrs. Allen-Young said the increase in fees only represented a fraction of the real costs for services.
Citing examples, she said in the case of a patient being treated in a hospital’s casualty or outpatient department, the real cost was $2,156, but he or she would be required to pay only $300; and that for a maternity patient spending a night in the hospital, the real cost was $4,110, but she would be asked to pay only $500.
Elaborating further, Mrs. Allen-Young explained that the average real cost for a paediatric patient staying overnight in a hospital was $2,854, but the reduced fee for persons unable to pay the full cost was $500.
“The cost for routine surgery can be as low as $3,500 for public patients as against $10,000 to $15,000 for private patients,” the Permanent Secretary noted. It was also disclosed that public patients who required healthcare from government-funded hospitals would have the added benefit of even further reduced costs, should they enroll in social programmes operated by the state. Membership in the National Health Fund (NHF), the Jamaica Drug for the Elderly Programme (JADEP), National Insurance (NI) Gold, and the Programme for the Advancement of Health and Education (PATH) will help in offsetting the hospital costs incurred by public patients. In her address, PATH Representative in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Marcia Bolt, informed that the hospital costs for PATH beneficiaries would be waived.
The Permanent Secretary justified the increase in the user fees, noting that it was “very necessary if the Ministry is to continue to deliver the quality health care required for our citizens”.
“We have tried to ensure that fees remain relatively affordable for the average person, and we recognise that there will still be some persons who will not be able to afford these basic costs,” she said.
In his 2004/05 Budget presentation, Health Minister, John Junor had informed the House that it was imperative for the Health Ministry to raise hospital user fees, as they had remained unchanged since 1999.
Speaking on the issue of the non-payment of hospital fees by patients when they are released from the hospital, the Permanent Secretary said the Ministry has put a number of systems in place to deal with the matter.
These include upping the number of cashiers in the system and extending their working hours; and putting in place “easier payment plans” for public patients, she noted.

JIS Social