Government Committed To Meeting Obligations In Health Sector – SPENCER

Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, has said that the Government is committed to meeting its obligations in the sector, through sound health policies and programmes.

He pointed out that one such policy was the abolition of User Fees in health facilities, through which Jamaicans were able to save over $3.6 billion last year.

“The Government has also increased access to drugs and medical sundries by expanding the number of items on the Vital Essential and Necessary (VEN) list from 550 to 739 items, providing a broader range of pharmaceutical preparations for persons who use the public health facility,” the Minister said.

Mr. Spencer was speaking at the inaugural awards banquet of the Jamaican Orthopaedic Association, held on February 20, at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort, in Ocho Rios, St. Ann.

“We have increased access to eye care in the country. The Jamaica/Cuba Eye Care Project has been in place since 2005. Since then, some 3,350 persons have benefited with an average of 1,300 persons travelling to Cuba on a yearly basis,” he said, noting that the opening of the Jamaica/Cuba Eye Care facility at St. Joseph’s Hospital, in Kingston, would result in some 5,000 persons having access to the service annually under the programme.

The Minister said that another area which has received priority attention was the HIV/AIDS programme, which had an enviable record of performance and success. He noted, however, that the present economic challenge could affect the gains that had already been made in halting the spread of HIV/AIDS.

“A number of individuals are missing medication and clinic appointments, due to a lack of bus fare and a lack of food to take with the medication,” he noted, and informed that steps were being taken to address the issue through an income generating project, which was funded as part of the Global Fund Round 7 Grant, at a cost of US$750,000.

“This initiative targets persons living with and affected by HIV/AIDS in low income community settings,” he said.

He added that grants would be given to an association or group of persons living with or affected by the virus or an individual whose situation made him or her vulnerable to contracting the virus.

“Small scale businesses, self-employed ventures, skills training and development and education can be given funding. Individuals can receive up to US$1,500 and NGOs and groups up to US$15,000,” he explained.

He called on members of the Jamaican Orthopaedic Association to continue to work with the Ministry in its effort to help build a stronger health sector in the country.

“It is abundantly clear that this Government is pursuing policies that will safeguard the progress that the country has made, especially in those areas that will determine the future and fortune of Jamaica. Government alone cannot accomplish this Herculean task. We need all hands on deck to rebuild this country,” the Minister said, adding that the Government, even in the face of the global meltdown, had an obligation to the people of Jamaica and would seek to remain committed to meeting such obligations.

He commended members of the Association on their achievements and wished for them success in their endeavours.