JIS News

The Princess Margaret Hospital in St. Thomas, which is this year celebrating its 50th anniversary, has been prioritising its services, making use of the limited user fees it collects.
“Certainly what we collect is not enough to sustain us. It demands creative planning. A lot of prioritisation has to go into what we do,” David Coombs, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the hospital told JIS News.
He pointed out that there was a 35 per cent compliance rate in the collection of user fees, and that the hospital continued to strive to improve healthcare service delivery.
“Those areas that do impact significantly on the quality of care given are the areas where you have to make sure that are at least kept to the minimum of standard, so that you will not short change members of the public when they do come in for healthcare,” Mr. Coombs said.
The CEO explained that the culture needed to be changed, where persons saw the need to pay for services received.
“It actually costs hospitals to give a certain level of healthcare in Jamaica or anywhere else in the world. We have to commence tackling how important it is for persons to pay user fees. They have to understand that payments form part of the income that serves to improve the services,” he emphasized.
Collecting at least 90 per cent of the user fees would go a far way in enabling the hospital to move to the next level in terms of healthcare delivery. There could be a possible facelift of the hospital with more income, the CEO said, as well as additional staff employed, so that waiting time for services could be reduced.
The CEO also said that with more funds, not only would the hospital be able to keep abreast with technological changes, but also by virtue of having the new equipment, new practices could be implemented.”Individuals could be trained in new techniques and how to use new equipment. It would definitely make a big difference,” Mr. Coombs pointed out.
The CEO remains hopeful that the situation will change. He said that the hospital would still endeavour to encourage individuals to pay the fees. In fact, the hospital has tried to make it as easy as possible for patients, by having payment schedules put in place as well as areas of collection closest to them, so they do not have to return to the hospital to make payments.
“We also have a main assessment officer and an assistant, who periodically check on the level of compliance and remind those who have bills outstanding to settle them. We do try to follow up as best as we can,” Mr. Coombs said.
“Our overall aim is to collect as much money owing as possible, but we realise that some of the debts we will have to write off eventually,” he added. In the meantime, benefactors play an integral role in sustaining the hospital along with the Ministry of Health. “They have been very benevolent to the hospital over the years,” Mr. Coombs said, adding that there was the option of approaching funding agencies to provide assistance in areas identified for upgrade or specialised equipment.
“Corporate Jamaica also do give donations in areas of need from time to time,” the CEO noted.
The hospital, which is named in honour of the late Princess Margaret, currently has a complement of 122 beds.
A Type C hospital, which does not offer certain specialised services, it has five main wards – children, male, female, integrated and maternity. Several activities have been planned to observe the 50th milestone, including a church service, health fair and an Open Day in February.

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