Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, has reiterated that there will be no changes to the no user fee policy at public hospitals before there is a Government health card in place.
This is said, as the administration is determined to offer universal primary healthcare to persons who use primary public health facilities.
The Minister was addressing staff and patients at the Cornwall Regional Hospital, in Montego Bay, St. James, on February 17, during a tour of the institution.
Giving his commitment to ease the long wait by patients at public hospitals, the Minister said his immediate task is to, along with stakeholders, develop and deliver the best quality care for Jamaicans.
“The new quality care will not come on board before we do a review of the no user fee policy, when we would have put in place the Government health card. We believe that at the secondary level, those who have the ability to pay ought to pay,” he stated. He explained that the Government will be implementing a waiver system to ensure that those who are unable to pay will not be denied access.
The Minister stressed that at the primary level universal access will remain in place, but at secondary facilities, those who are able to pay should do so. He emphasised however, that persons should not be turned away from these public health care facilities due to inability to pay.
“In looking at universal primary healthcare, it is not an argument that speaks to neglect for secondary health institutions. It is an argument to strengthen, because as far as I am concerned, and the Government, and the people of Jamaica, what you want is best quality care where you are focusing on purity and the preventive aspect of healthcare, and develop your centres,” he told the gathering.
Dr. Ferguson disclosed that some 80 per cent of persons who seek care in the public health system go to primary centres. “We need to also set up centres of excellence at the primary care level so that we can ease the pressure…so when you get here and have to spend another 5-6 hours in the waiting area… we cannot boast that this is the best quality care,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Health Minister announced that the tendering process is underway for the multi-million dollar repair of the nearby Mount Salem Health Centre, which will improve the quality of care at that facility.
He informed also that a decision has been taken to, for the first time, include nurses on the four regional bodies. “We believe you have the numbers, you have the professional skills, you are a major stakeholder in this sector, and I believe the time has come that you should have representation at the highest level,” he said.