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Minister of Health Rudyard Spencer said that poor Jamaicans who use the public health facilities have saved over $1 billion since the abolition of user fees. “This policy has increased the disposable income of Jamaicans and has removed a major impediment to access to health care for poor people”, Minister Spencer noted. He was responding to statements carried in the press that are critical of the no user fees policy today Monday February 23, 2009.
In giving a breakdown of the figures, Minister Spencer disclosed that over 1.1 million health centre visits have saved Jamaicans over $110 M, $93.58 million was saved for some 26,738 surgeries while Registration at Accident & Emergency saved over 520,00 Jamaicans more than $156 million. Drugs dispensed stood at more than one million saving Jamaicans $412.5 million while the 106,701 Admissions saved patients over $320.1 million.
“The 2007 Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions reported that 65.1% of persons in the poorest category use the public health sector. 50.8% of this category in the Survey did not access care in 2007 because of an inability to pay”, the Minister said pointing to the category that has benefiting the most under the policy.
“This Government will not renege on its responsibility to the people of Jamaica from whom it has received a mandate to implement this policy. In the face of the worst economic recession in 70 years, it would be unthinkable and unjust to impose user fees on the poor and vulnerable. Now is the time to advance pro-poor and pro-health public policies to protect the incomes of the poor and safeguard their lives”, the Minister said.
Minister Spencer outlined several initiatives that the Ministry has undertaken to address the age-old problems of the health sector in the areas of human resources and the availability of drugs. “We have started training persons in the Assistive Health Care Workers category in the area of Pharmacy Technicians. We will train 500 of these workers including Lab Technicians, Medical Records Personnel, Patient Care Assistants, Operating Theatre Technicians and Community Health Aides over a two-year period to the tune of over 100 million dollars.”
“In addition, we have prepared a proposal which is at the NHF for over 850 million dollars for the training of critical staff for the period 2009-2013.”
“We promised the nation that we would revise the Vital Essential and Necessary (VEN) List. We completed the revision and the new list has an additional 142 items to bring the full List to 738. We have included more drugs for conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. We have begun to sensitise our doctors on the new additions. We therefore expect to see an improvement in the availability of drugs”, the Minister noted.
He said that the Government remained committed to the continued successful implementation of the policy and would not shrink back from the systemic issues that have been affecting the sector for several decades.