As of February next year, Jamaicans should have increased access to drugs, under the free health care programme, when the Government of Jamaica Health Card comes fully into effect.
The card was launched Thursday (August 20) at The Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston. It will enable Jamaicans to more easily access drugs on the Vital, Essential and Necessary (VEN) list free of cost.
Speaking at the launch, Health Minister, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, explained that the card could be used to fill prescriptions obtained from public health institutions, at all public sector pharmacies and selected private sector pharmacies.
Minister of Health, Honourable Rudyard Spencer, delivers the main address at the launch of the Government of Jamaica Health Card, today (August 20), at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, in Kingston. Others (from left) are: Public Relations Agent at the National Health Fund, Shermaine Robotham; Chief Executive Officer of the National Health Fund, Hugh Lawson; and Acting Managing Director of the Health Corporation Limited, Yvette Martin.
Admitting that “the availability of drugs is indeed a problem” since the abolition of user fees, Mr. Spencer said the introduction of the card would help to provide more points of access to Jamaicans seeking drugs, as well as provide a way to track drug usage.
Mr. Spencer also noted that there were some persons who were hoarding the drugs accessed through the public health care system, and the card would help to arrest this problem.
“You go to the pharmacy, you put in your health card and it will say, when was the last time you accessed drugs? What was the drug? Or, whether or not you are entitled to access the drugs?” He said.
Minister of Health, Honourable Rudyard Spencer (left), consults with Acting Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Howard Lynch, during the launch of the Government of Jamaica Health Card, today (August 20), at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, in Kingston. The card will allow Jamaicans to fill prescriptions obtained at Government health institutions and some private pharmacies as well as Government pharmacies, free of cost.
Mr. Spencer underscored that all Jamaicans are eligible for the card and that registration will begin on September 1.
“Persons will be required to take along a Taxpayer Registration Number (TRN). The card will be mailed to an address supplied by the patient, within two weeks of registration,” he told persons attending the launch.
The initiative is being implemented over a three-year period and is expected to cost the Government approximately $2.4 billion, of which the National Health Fund (NHF) will provide $300 million.
Chief Executive Officer of the NHF, Hugh Lawson, also said the Fund will help to register persons for the programme at the various public sector health centres and hospitals. In addition, the NHF will contract private pharmacies and “monitor and audit the obligations of the private pharmacies.”
Under the programme, the NHF will also pay a dispensing fee to the pharmacies weekly and will help with the public education campaign surrounding the use of the card. The Ministry is also partnering with the Health Corporation Limited for procurement of drugs and medical supplies, warehousing of the items and provision of an efficient system for their distribution to participating pharmacies.
Acting Managing Director of the HCL, Yvette Martin, assured that the Corporation’s delivery capabilities have been bolstered, to ensure there is no shortage of drugs on the VEN list. While the card is expected to arrest problems with the dispensing of drugs since the abolition of user fees last year, the recruitment and training of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians will continue.