JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson says the re-introduction of user fees in the public health sector may not by itself generate the levels of revenue required to adequately finance the system.
  • Citing the University Hospital of the West Indies, the only public private facility where the fees are still applied, the Minister said the hospital still faces significant challenges.
  • He informed that the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) spoke to user fees being a “punishment to the poor”.

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson says the re-introduction of user fees in the public health sector may not by itself generate the levels of revenue required to adequately finance the system.

“While we might need to do some things relative to what you call revenue streams, the answer cannot be just a total bringing back to the fore of a user fee system,” he said.

Citing the University Hospital of the West Indies, the only public private facility where the fees are still applied, the Minister said the hospital still faces significant challenges. “Therefore, it cannot be user fees by itself that is the solution to a sustainable health sector,” he said.

The Health Minister was addressing stakeholders at the 9th national consultation on financing Jamaica’s public health system at the Medallion Hall Hotel in Kingston on April 30.

“When you have user fees and you have a policy that says no one should be denied services on the basis of inability to pay, then immediately you have a contradiction, and therefore when you have a user fee system but 25 per cent or less pay, you are getting a battering from the most vulnerable who would say you are denying them services,” he said.

He informed that the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) spoke to user fees being a “punishment to the poor”, adding that “if you go to the World Health Assembly and PAHO fora and assemblies, the big thrust is towards universal health coverage, that is where the world is heading now.”

He cited, as an example, specialist services, pointing out that “there is nothing wrong if we were to set up in the hospitals to charge for those specialised services that are not normally offered in the public sector, but that which we can do to become a revenue stream.”

He further added that in hospitals where the space is available, private wings could be established as a revenue stream.

Dr. Ferguson said since the consultations commenced, several significant points for financing the sector were proposed by participants.

Several of these, include: the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) contributing financing, especially to offset medical costs incurred in resort areas; as well as implementation of special health insurance coverage in this regard.

He said participants also cited motor vehicle accident insurance and maximizing collection from private health insurance among others, as potential options.

Dr. Ferguson told the stakeholders that the ongoing national consultations on financing Jamaica’s public health system will yield tangible solutions, redounding to the country’s benefit.

“I am asking you, today, to use your expertise and experience to assist us to come up with ways in which we can move forward towards the goal of universal access to quality health services for the people of Jamaica,” he added.

He noted that regardless of the mechanism or combination of measures established, “we must pass the sustainability test and ensure that the vulnerable are not marginalized or affected negatively.”

The Health Minister stressed that access to increased financing can enable the country to better manage and operate the public health sector in a way that will improve equity, efficiency and health outcomes.

“We have to think outside the box and come up with creative means of financing. Ideally any option we put on the table should have the features of being equitable, can be efficiently pooled and is a prepayment initiative to ensure financial protection,” he said.

Dr. Ferguson urged persons to submit their suggestions to the Ministry.

In addition to the consultations, discussions have been held with the Opposition Spokesman on Health, Dr. Ken Baugh; health groups and associations, internal stakeholders, and members of the public in the four health regions.