JIS News

Imagine being independent and proud and loving it, then suddenly finding yourself totally dependent on your family for financial support!
That sums up the unfortunate life of Errol Brown* over the past three years – a hardworking Jamaican who, in 2006, was hit off his bicycle by a motorcar in a hit-and-run accident and paralysed from the neck down.
After three surgeries, Errol is now able to walk again, albeit with the aid of a cane, but he has to depend on his family for financial and emotional support. Thanks, however, to the removal of user fees at public health facilities, there is one less problem on his mind.
“Me must glad for it. We don’t have to pay for the surgeries,” he volunteered.
The family has saved more than US$2,000 on medical expenses, as a result of the removal of the fees.
Errol underwent his first surgery, which cost approximately US$1,000 (about J$88,000), prior to the abolition of user fees. But, the other two surgeries have been performed within the past year and his family did not have to pay a cent, thus saving US$2,000 (approximately J$176,000) in the process.
Charges for administrative services and healthcare needs, such as hospital fees, laboratory tests, haematology, family planning and antenatal examinations, among others, were removed on April 1,2008, at all public health facilities, by the Government, fulfilling one of its most tangible pre-election promises.
Minister of Health and Environment, Rudyard Spencer, says that the policy has saved the public, who have used the facilities, over $1 billion since then.
Errol believes him. He says that he is extremely grateful for the policy, as his family does not have to dig deep into their purses whenever he seeks care at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH).
The 32-year-old welder, who lives in St. Catherine, has no children and was living a relatively comfortable life, until the accident.
His sister, Joan*, said her brother, who was always a “reserved” individual, constantly worries about being a burden on his family.
“One can understand why it bothers him. He was working on his own, making his own money, supporting himself, now as family, we have to pull together for this situation,” she consoled.
Joan*, her siblings, mainly a sister, and their mother take care of Errol’s financial needs.
She said the medical bills and health supplies, such as medications and a urine bag, have virtually dried up the family’s bank accounts. So, they are extremely happy that now they only have to purchase medications which are not available from the hospital, as all of Errol’s laboratory tests, some medications and surgeries, are free of cost at the KPH.
“Yes it’s a relief,” Joan admitted.
“The fact that every six weeks we had to find money when he needed check-ups, plus when a surgery came up we had to pay, and now we don’t have to, is definitely a relief,” she added.
During Errol’s surgery, the doctors inserted plates in his neck. The family say they are now waiting on the healing process to be completed, so that he can take the next step, which is urology surgery.
* Names changed to protect identity

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