Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, said that two studies will be undertaken to determine the state’s ability to adequately fund quality healthcare across the system.
Speaking at a press conference at his downtown Kingston offices on May 4, the Health Minister said that while the administration is strongly committed to the no user fees policy at the primary level, there is concern about the state’s ability the fund the programme at the secondary and tertiary levels.
He informed that a study is to be done to ascertain the necessary measures that must be in place for the implementation of an effective waiver system, which will determine a person’s eligibility to pay. The Terms of Reference have been completed and very soon, the Ministry will invite tenders for bids from local companies interested in undertaking the study.
In addition, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is funding a study that will examine the reform of the health sector.
These studies are important in light of government’s renewed strategic focus on primary health care.
Dr. Ferguson said that government strongly believes that within the context of budgetary constraints, focus on primary healthcare “is the best investment that we can make in health to secure the goal of a stable and healthy population." The move, he said, will result in more cost-effective delivery of health services and will ease the pressure at the secondary and tertiary levels.
As part of the strategic focus, the Ministry of Health has entered into a partnership with the National Youth Service (NYS) to train and place 1,100 young people over a five-year period (2011-2016).
Phase one of the initiative is currently underway, with 307 trainees serving as community health workers “for a period of attachment,” Dr. Ferguson informed.
“They were placed in family health and environmental health. The persons in family health will complement the community health aides and provide face-to-face interventions. The environmental health group will assist the public health inspectors and assume some environmental duties particularly in the areas of visiting premises and carrying out inspections as well as mapping vector breeding sites,” he explained.
According to a recent World Health Report, primary health care is a people-centred approach to health that makes prevention as important as cure. Focus is placed on tackling the root causes of ill health.
A primary health care approach is regarded as the most efficient, fair, and cost-effective way to organise a health system and also prevent people with minor complaints from flooding the emergency wards of hospitals.
By Allan Brooks, JIS Senior Reporter