Jamaica says vulnerable groups will not be denied health care access
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Monday January 23, 2012 - Minister of Health Dr. Fenton Ferguson said the government will introduce a new policy of universal free health care at primary care facilities, but assured that it has no intention of denying access to vulnerable groups at the secondary and tertiary levels.
“It is a shift from what now obtains, which is universal free primary, secondary and tertiary health care, but let me make it clear that the government has no intention…of denying access to high risk and vulnerable patients, such as our children, the disabled, and our senior citizens,” Dr. Ferguson stated.
He said what the government is very clear about “is that those who can pay must pay”, noting that the ministry will develop a means test to identify those who cannot afford to pay.
The Minister was speaking at a SWOT analysis workshop, which he requested to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses and external opportunities and threats affecting the Jamaica health sector.
He said the results would help determine how to proceed with crafting new policies and programmes.
The minister said the process of halting free health care at secondary and tertiary level health facilities would not be immediate, but will take place in phases.
“We are very clear that we will need to have the necessary mechanisms in place that will allow for the kind of transition that is needed. I do not intend to disrupt the health sector by any kind of policy shift that in the short term would create problems,” he explained.
“What we believe is that we should never pursue a policy that, in the long run, would compromise the quality of health care for our people,” Dr. Ferguson stated.
The government has said it intends to introduce a health card that would allow individuals with prescriptions from public health facilities to obtain items on the Vital, Essential and Necessary list.
It said this would facilitate easy access to specific medication at no cost at public sector and selected private sector pharmacies island-wide.