Minister of Health, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, has reiterated that the ongoing review of the abolition of the user fee policy within the health sector is critical, as it seeks to identify gaps within the sector.
He explained that this review will determine the gaps in the system across a number of areas, including human resource, finance and the provision of medical, nursing, pharmacy, allied health and auxiliary health services.
At present, user fees are not paid at public health facilities, except the University Hospital of the West Indies.
“Once we are able to see the gaps, then we will plan better going forward. Within the next three to four months, we will be much clearer on where we are going, but we are going to be consultative with all the stakeholders, so that in the end, it will be a policy of participation and a policy coming from the people,” he said.
The Minister was speaking at an appreciation function for health volunteers from New York City, at the Princess Margaret Hospital, in St. Thomas, on March 9.
Another area that will be reviewed, the Minister said, is the Government of Jamaica Health Card, which will, among other things, create a unique identification system. “It will be able to detect those who have (an) insurance policy,” Dr. Ferguson said.
He pointed out that the policies under revision will ensure that those who can pay should pay, adding that it is not seeking to deny anyone who cannot pay.
“Those who can’t pay, ought to get treatment; those who can pay, I see no reason why they should not pay a contribution,” he said, adding that the Government has committed to universal free primary health care, in keeping with the principle of a health sector that is not based on the ability to pay.
Dr. Ferguson noted that at the end of November last year, the health sector owed creditors and suppliers some $2.69 billion.
Meanwhile, Dr. Fenton Ferguson said voluntarism within the health sector is a significant component in the continued development of the sector.
“If we had to pay for the work that you have done in terms of the number of patients, the professional skills that you have brought to the table, the years of experience, it would be a large sum and therefore we really appreciate it. I really want to thank you for coming, because during this week, you would have saved the Government and people of Jamaica a significant sum,” the Minister told the volunteers.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter