JIS News

The Government’s abolition of user fees, nearly a year ago, has brought health care within the reach of over 50 per cent of the poorest quintile of Jamaicans who previously reported an illness, but could not afford to get treatment.
This is gleaned from figures supplied by the 2007 edition of the ‘Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions’, published by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ). In addition, figures supplied by the Ministry of Health indicate that 65 per cent of those seeking care in Government facilities are from the poorest quintile.
These facts strengthen the Government’s commitment to making health care more accessible to Jamaicans.
“The abolition of user fees policy will continue to catalyse reforms of the public health sector,” Minister of Health, Rudyard Spencer, has said. “We will continue to monitor the implementation of the policy by tracking patient utilisation, savings to the Jamaican people, impact on services, such as pharmacy and waiting times, and quality of service,” he added.
But, Government has no doubt as to the impact the abolition of user fees has had on the poor. Since the implementation of the policy on April 1 last year, there have been over 1.1 million visits to health centres and over 520,000 visits to accident and emergency departments at Government hospitals.
Between April and September last year, there was a 69.9 per cent increase in visits to clinics. “That by itself justifies why it makes sense to abolish fees,” the Health Minister stressed.
Between April and November last year, public hospitals and health centres islandwide saw 360,489 and 103,519 patients, respectively, for pharmacy services. There was a 38.7 per cent increase in visits in April last year, when the abolition of user fees was implemented, compared to April 2007.
Hospitals prescribed and dispensed 1,158,943 and 1,031,267 pharmacy items, respectively, between April and November 2008; while health centres saw a total of 370,704 items prescribed and 232,489 items dispensed during the similar period. An average of five items was prescribed and two dispensed per patient during the period.
Importantly, too, Government’s Vital, Essential and Necessary (VEN) list was expanded by a whopping 142 items, pushing the total to 738. More drugs have been included for conditions, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.