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Jamaicans are being encouraged to make greater use of their local health centres to reduce the burden on hospitals.
There has been a significant increase in the number of Jamaicans accessing treatment at Accident and Emergency (A and E) Departments since the abolition of user fees at public health facilities on April 1, 2008.
Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, speaking at a post-Sectoral press briefing at his King Street offices on July 16, said that only about 180,000 of the 904,726 visits to A and E Departments during the last financial year, warranted hospital care, indicating that these cases could be adequately treated at the health centres.
He pointed out that “it is less costly to those who access the service (at health centres) even in a no user fees environment.”
Citing Kingston Public Hospital as one of the pressure points in the system, the Minister said that for the first two months after abolition, the number of patients accessing care at the hospital’s A and E Department increased by 44.7 per cent and 30.2 per cent.
He said that even though the average use of the A and E Department dropped to 23.1 per cent by March 2009, the figure was still an almost 100 per cent increase over the national average increase of 11.7 per cent.
In the meantime, he stated that the Ministry will be continuing its programme of primary care renewal, as studies have shown that it costs less to provide health services in the primary health care setting.
He informed that 150 of the country’s 300 health centres are to be remodeled and upgraded this year, while the National Health Fund and the Health Corporation will partner to address, “in a very significant way,” the burden that is being placed on pharmacies, as a result of the abolition of user fees. He said that visits to pharmacies have increased by 49 per cent.