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Residents of St. Catherine have recommended the implementation of a health tax, similar to the education tax, as means of generating revenue to finance the public health system.

The suggestion was among proposals coming out of a consultation on public health financing, held on Tuesday, July 9, on the grounds of the Spanish Town Hospital.

The consultation, which was the eighth in a series organised by the Ministry of Health, are part of efforts by the Government, to review the no user fees policy, but to also look broadly at options to finance the health sector.

Other suggestions coming out of the session in St. Catherine are for an increase in the levy on cigarette and tobacco companies, as well as a tax on junk food.

Residents also proposed that the elderly, the unemployed and persons under 18 years, should be exempt from paying user fees at public health facilities.

Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, in welcoming the suggestions said he has been impressed by the robust discussions and the many thought provoking ideas that have been put forward by citizens at the consultations held to date.

He noted that the results of the consultations should allow the Government to formulate a position that will not compromise services for the most vulnerable in the population.

He stressed that, whatever model of financing the Government adopts for the health system, must be one that is not only sustainable, but also provides for a balance between access and quality care.

“There is no point in saying we want to create access at the expense of quality,” the Minister stated.

The Health Minister noted that Jamaica is blessed with a cadre of talented and excellent medical professionals, who can be rated among “the best anywhere across the globe” but noted that what we need to fix is the necessary funding that will sustain a quality system and that will allow for the gaps in terms of manpower, diagnostics and infrastructure (to be filled).

Meanwhile, Board Chairman, South East Regional Health Authority, Lyttleton Shirley, said the Government must evaluate and determine the most sustainable way of meeting the objective of providing quality healthcare for all Jamaicans.

“It is my view that whatever decisions we make, we must protect the vulnerable in our society,” he stated.

The seven other consultations held to date, included talks with the Opposition Spokesman on Health, Dr. Kenneth Baugh, health groups and associations, staff of the Ministry of Health, and other internal stakeholders and members of the public in all four health regions.

Contact: Athaliah Reynolds-Baker