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Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer says after three years of the abolition of user fees policy, significant reductions have been seen in the percentage of Jamaicans who are now citing cost as a reason for not seeking health care.

“One cannot view the benefit of the policy purely through the lens of the health sector. Despite the fact that data collection for the 2008 survey was done July 2008 to February 2009 – shortly after the introduction of the policy when the gains were not yet fully evident, the Survey of Living Conditions gave some promising indications in terms of the reduction in the cost of health care to Jamaicans,” Minister Spencer said.

The Survey indicates that there was a significant decline in the number of persons who cited cost as an inhibiting factor in seeking health care. In 2007, 33.9% of persons who reported illness said they could not afford to seek care, by 2008 the number dropped to 21.9% and a further reduction was recorded in 2009 to 19.4%.

In addition, in 2009, 0% of persons in the working class group reported that they could not afford health care compared to 25% in 2008.  For the Kingston metropolitan area, 6.9% of persons said they could not afford care in 2009 compared to 22.4% in 2008.  For other towns, by 2009, 0% reported that they could not afford care, while 9.4% gave that indication in 2008.

For the three years prior to the abolition of user fees, hospital visits numbered 3,434,105, health centre visits amounted to 4,527,299, pharmacy items prescribed stood at 5,964,871 and pharmacy items dispensed was  4,664,632.

An increase in utilization was seen in all areas for the three years since implementation of the policy on April 1, 2008. Hospital visits amounted to 3,554,740, health centre visits totaled 5,094,385, there were 9,238,435 pharmacy items prescribed and 7,175,352 pharmacy items dispensed.

Minister Spencer says this shows that the policy has increased accessed to health services to many Jamaicans who would not have been able to afford it.  It has also leveled the playing field as far as health in the public sector is concerned for the haves and haves not and hastened the repositioning of  Primary Health Care as the foundation of any good and sustainable health system.

“These are significant developments which indicate that despite the challenges that we have faced in implementation over the last three years, no one can deny the enormous benefits to the people of Jamaica,” Minister Spencer said.

The government has also saved the people of Jamaica disposable income in the region of $5.7 Billion over the period from fees foregone.

 

Issued by: The Ministry of Health