More Than 422,000 Jamaicans Benefit from Free Health Care Since April 1


Minister of Health and Environment, Rudyard Spencer, has said that more than 422,000 persons have benefited from the abolition of user fees at public health facilities.
These include 217,565 persons at hospitals and 204,950 persons at 75 Type 3 to 5 health centres across the island.
Making his contribution to the 2008/09 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on June 3, Mr. Spencer said that the fees foregone across these health facilities are in the region of $450 million.
The Minister noted that the government’s move to abolish fees has been met with high approval, with 83 per cent of persons, who responded to a survey, indicating satisfaction with the decision.
“The majority of patients were satisfied with the attitude of the medical staff. For nurses and doctors, the satisfaction levels were 88 per cent and 93 per cent respectively,” the Minister informed.
In the meantime, the Minister pointed out that pharmaceutical services continue to be a challenge in terms of patient demand. “This area has continued to reflect the highest increase in patient load, higher than 100 per cent in some facilities. We have 45 pharmacists in the entire public sector. We are doing everything possible to attract some of the graduates of the University of Technology and we are working to establish public/private partnerships that will ease the burden on this category of staff,” he told the House.
He informed that the Ministry will be expanding the number of Drug Serv pharmacies in public health facilities, as a means of addressing the issue.
This intervention, he said, will improve access to drugs for patients; ensure timely supply of drugs; and enhance the management of drug supply in the public health sector. It is also anticipated that this expansion of the Drug Serv operations could be a platform for attracting and retaining pharmacists in the public sector.
Effective April 1, 2008 patients at public hospitals and health centres, except the University of the West Indies, started to benefit from a number of health services free of cost.
These include but are not limited to: registration; doctor’s examination; hospital stay; diagnostic services including x-rays and laboratory tests; drugs; physiotherapy; surgeries; family planning; immunization; antenatal care; renal dialysis; drugs for chemotherapy; and radiation treatment.

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