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Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, says a Government of Jamaica (GOJ) Health Card, to help improve the delivery of healthcare services to Jamaicans, is to be introduced shortly.

The Minister was speaking Friday (January 13) at a Ministry of Health Retreat, at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston.

The GOJ Health Card will allow persons with prescriptions from public health facilities easy access to medication at no cost, for items that are on the Vital, Essential and Necessary (VEN) list. The service is expected to be available at public sector and selected private sector pharmacies, island-wide.

The Minister said the card would also improve the mechanism to bill private health insurance providers, as it will state whether or not the individual has health insurance.

He said that while the current administration is not completely opposed to the abolition of user fees, "the principle that we are observing is that, those who can, should pay. The Ministry must develop an effective mechanism to assess people’s ability to pay".

"I want to make one thing abundantly clear. This Government supports the removal of user fees from social services for certain segments of the population. In 2007, we introduced free health care for children," he pointed out.

Dr. Ferguson said that he is looking forward to working with health workers, as he carries out his objectives of improving quality, inspiring and motivating the health workforce and restoring public trust and confidence in the system.

“I ask for your support in executing the policy directives of the government of the day. That is your job as public servants. If we make bad policies, the public will punish the policy makers, but no government can achieve success without an effective and efficient public sector,” he said.

Dr. Furguson also noted that, having worked in the health sector all his life, he deemed it an inestimable honour to serve as Minister of Health.

"My commitment to you, as leaders in the public health sector, is that I will be a listening, open, transparent and caring Minister. If my staff is confident that I care, I trust them to go the extra mile – not for me, but for the Jamaican people," he assured.

The one-day retreat was held to brief the Minister on the Ministry’s operations, and to establish the policy and strategic direction that will guide the way forward.

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