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Budget Focus - Health

Published:Friday | February 20, 2015 | 2:00 AM
Dr Shane Alexis, president of the Medical Association of Jamaica

Alexis: Health should get 10% of Budget

Dr Shane Alexis

president, Medical Association of Jamaica

The health sector in Jamaica has been chronically underfunded for more than 40 years. The international benchmark of 10 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to health has only been achieved once in our history - 1972. Jamaica deserves a health-care system that is patient-focused, equitable, sustainably funded, and will ensure quality affordable service with good outcomes for everyone.

The budgetary allocation to health for the upcoming financial year 2015-16 should help to achieve this. As a start, 10 per cent of our national Budget should be allocated to health.

In dollar terms, this will mean a move from a little over $30 billion to over $50 billion per annum. This figure should not include debt repayments and must take into consideration exchange-rate fluctuations since most inputs for service delivery are imported.

Critical concerns - including the severe lack of diagnostic studies (CT scans, ultrasounds, etc), a demotivated and inadequate staff, as well as a long list of patient complaints that are evident on a daily basis - must be addressed. Investments in primary care (prevention), secondary care (hospital treatment) as well as administrative and support services need to be made and urgently implemented in all our facilities.

The recent chikungunya epidemic highlights the importance of budgetary support for continuous and effective public-education campaigns on infectious and non-infectious diseases, to assist in the prevention of costly illnesses. We should not sacrifice our good health, even during the hardest of economic times.