Ferguson orders health sector audit
Board chairmen of the country's regional health authorities have been instructed to conduct a comprehensive audit of their major hospitals and health centres to determine the availability of supplies as well as the challenges being faced in ensuring adequate supply-chain management.
Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson made the revelation as he contributed to the Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives yesterday.
Ferguson, who is under pressure in his ministerial portfolio as a result of major shortcomings in the public-health sector, said that the results of the audit would be addressed through the additional resources provided for pharmaceuticals and sundries in this fiscal year's budget.
The health ministry has been allocated $47.8 billion in this year's Budget, up from $40.4 billion last year, to carry our recurrent expenditure. In the South East Regional Health Authority, grants for the purchase of pharmaceutical supplies increased from $1.9 billion last year to $3.3 billion this year.
In the North East Regional Health Authority, pharmaceutical grants moved from $670 million to $702 million; and to $1.8 billion in the Western Regional Health Authority, up from $1.2 billion last year. The Southern Regional Health authority has been allocated $2 billion this year, up from $1.1 billion last year.
"This administration recognises health as a developmental imperative, and so we continue to put policies and systems in place to develop and transform the health sector into one that can adequately respond to prevailing needs," the minister said.
Ferguson also told Parliament that free health care, first implemented in 2007, would remain a feature of the Jamaican landscape.
"I am happy to note that there is a closing gap between the Government and the Opposition with respect to universal access," Ferguson said. He said further that at the time when the Simpson Miller administration removed user fees for children 0-18 years old, it was believed that there would be immense challenges in the health sector if fees were removed at all facilities at the same time.
In the meantime, Ferguson said that the task force that was established to examine the delivery of medical care, including the way doctors practise, will continue to meet.
"We are also looking forward to the re-engagement of the JMDA (Jamaica Medical Doctors' Association) in this process," said Ferguson, while adding that there would be "no implementation of a shift system until we have successfully completed the work of the task force".
"As minister with responsibility for the health sector, I am committed to work with all groups and agencies in the spirit of developing the best possible health-care system for Jamaica. We are not against criticism, and we welcome suggestions that will lead to improved management of the system and better delivery of health care," Ferguson added.
He said the ministry was willing, ready, and hoping to continue discussions with the JMDA on how to deliver better health care to the Jamaican people.
The JMDA last week withdrew from the task force set up to deliberate on proposed revised working hours for physicians in the public-health sector. It said yesterday that it could possibly return to the task force set up to review the working arrangements provided it was fair and balanced and views and proposals were considered.
In making his contribution, Ferguson, the member of Parliament (MP) for Eastern St Thomas, faced heckling from opposition MP Audley Shaw, who said that doctors were not being provided with the tools to do their jobs and were performing operations in less than desirable conditions.