Friday, April 4, 2008

Jamaica Abolishes Hospital User Fees

The ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has delivered on another of its election promises. In its campaign, leading up to the September 2007 General Elections, the JLP promised to make healthcare more affordable for the average Jamaican by removing user fees.

On April 1, 2008 this was made a reality. There was much bantering on the streets as to the reason why Tom Fool’s Day (Jamaican for All Fools Day) was chosen for the start of such a major undertaking. However, this was no joke – Jamaicans no longer have to pay the user fees to receive medical services at public hospitals and health centers.

The fees abolished are registration fees, hospital admission, surgeries, medications, doctor’s examination, diagnostic services, blood transfusions and lab works, ambulance service, physiotherapy and maternal care.

The abolishment of fees will cost the Jamaican government an additional J$3.85 billion dollars to meet the expected 30 percent increase in patient load. Minister Spencer noted that for the first year of the abolition of user fees, the cost will be approximately J$1.7 billion.

There are justifiable concerns from many quarters as to how the already overburdened economy will manage to absorb this cost, especially in light of the removal of tuition fees for most educational institutions below the tertiary level. Minister Spencer noted however that in the best of times, most Jamaicans were unable to pay only about 15 percent of fees being collected.

Prior to the official date, Jamaica’s Governor General, Sir Kenneth Hall pointed out that “Measures have been put in place to manage the increased patient flow which is expected to result from unrestricted access. The opening hours of selected health centers will also be extended…”

After talking to persons working at some of the Jamaica’s hospitals and reports in the daily newspapers, it was smooth going at most institutions. However, a few had patients angry because they had to wait for long periods before receiving treatment.

Despite the challenges, this move should ensure healthcare for the average Jamaican who is often forced to forego treatment because they cannot afford it.

-Jessica McCurdy Crooks


Tremaya Reynolds said...

This is a great move, it's good to see both the JLP and PNP fulfill their political promises for the betterment of the people. It really will be a blessing to a lot of people.

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