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Free access to health care a right for every Jamaican – Holness

Published:Tuesday | October 10, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness

Prime Minister Andrew Holness said the policy of free access to health care is a right that every Jamaican should be able to enjoy, regardless of financial status.

Addressing St Ann business leaders and medical practitioners at the opening of the expanded operating theatre and the renovated male surgical ward as well as the handing over of an ambulance at the St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital last Friday, Holness said he was aware that the policy has brought on added pressure on the public-health system with more persons now seeking treatment at hospitals.

"I know the difficult circumstances our doctors, nurses and other staff members encounter. I have also taken note of those who have said that this policy cannot work. Indeed, the figures have shown that persons seeking health care have increased since the policy was put in place. It has also shown that by virtue of this, our health facilities have come under stress," he noted.

Holness said that while he understands both sides of the conversation, "this is not a reason to abandon the policy".

"In fact, we have had introspective discussions within our Cabinet regarding the policy, because we don't want to burden our Jamaican people purely because we had made a political commitment. But when we examine the policy, it is the right thing to do," the Prime Minister said.

... Long waits no excuse to abandon policy

According to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, an increase in waiting times at health facilities is not a reason or an excuse to abandon the policy.

He noted that Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton should be commended for his thorough approach in trying to find a balance.

"What we are discovering is that the issue of waiting time, though it may have been triggered by an increased number of Jamaicans seeking health care, is not totally a resource problem," Holness pointed out on Friday during a function at the St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital.

"In many instances, it is a management problem. It is also an information problem, as well as a business process problem. So, the programme that the minister has put in place to quantify and to measure the issue of waiting time, so he can better manage the process, is a sound one."

The prime minister said that some persons have not been exercising the correct options when trying to access the proper health facilities.

"Part of this is to get people who use the health facilities to find the appropriate ones. Some are going to facilities where they could get the same treatment elsewhere at places designed to treat their problems," he noted.

Holness said persons who are in need of primary care are erroneously going to secondary and tertiary institutions, adding that "by just changing the information flow by educating the user has resulted in a reduction in waiting time."