The National Health Fund (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to confer on the Fund responsibility for procurement, warehousing and distribution of pharmaceuticals and other medical supplies for Government’s health facilities, was passed at Friday’s (February 18) sitting of the Senate.
Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon Dorothy Lightbourne, piloted the measure through the Upper House as Leader of Government Business. She said approval of the Bill would also give the NHF the authority to operate Drug Serv pharmacies.
The National Health Fund Act provides prescribed health benefits for all Jamaicans. It speaks to access to medical treatment, and preventative care for specified diseases and medical conditions.
Senator Lightbourne explained that the Health Corporation Limited (HCL), a Government-owned company, is currently responsible for the procurement, warehousing, and distribution of the items to the public health centres. However, on March 6 last year, the Cabinet approved the winding up of the HCL, and for the NHF to assume its responsibilities, including the Drug Serv pharmacies.
“This is aimed at making them more effective, and improve costs and efficiency,” she said.
She also noted that the amendments in the Bill will specifically empower the NHF to perform the functions of the HCL, on its winding up. The HCL had been established by the Ministry of Health to streamline the supply of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to public sector hospitals and health departments.
The amendments are in keeping with recommendations resulting from structural reviews of the current systems, with a view to strengthening these systems to make them more effective, she said.
Opposition Senator Navel Clarke supported the principal objectives of the Bill, including to provide prescribed health benefits to all residents, regardless of age, gender, health or economic status, and to provide greater access to medical treatment and preventative care for specified diseases and medical conditions.
“We could never dream of opposing this Bill. I support it one hundred per cent,” he said.
CONTACT: ALECIA SMITH