Good God man, somebody has to pay!
Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
The Government's decision to revisit, and possibly tweak the no-user-fee policy at public hospitals has been welcomed by former head of the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ) Edith Allwood-Anderson.
Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson last week confirmed Sunday Gleaner reports that consultations are under way to determine whether the Government will maintain or revise the existing no-user-fee policy.
But Ferguson was adamant that no decision has been made and rejected the claim that an announcement will be made shortly.
"We have not taken a decision. The policy must be reviewed and in this review, the people of Jamaica should be brought into the discussions," declared Ferguson.
But Allwood-Anderson, the retired nurse, sees no need for a further review of the policy, which was introduced by the Bruce Golding-led administration in 2008.
"Government has several, nuff, studies that were done on user fees abolition. And everyone of them said you have to review the no-user-fees policy because it could not continue like that. It was unsustainable," Allwood-Anderson told The Sunday Gleaner.
"We have right now what you call the MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging used in detecting structural abnormalities of the body). People use that for free. Not a penny," said Allwood-Anderson.
She noted that renal services are among the most expensive services available at public hospitals and that is also in high demand.
"Good God man. Somebody has to pay for it. Government can do so much and no more. And when Government provides a budget of so much, in a short time the budget is busted because of expenses.
"And you have people telling relatives overseas to come to Jamaica and get it for free, because it was very costly in the United States, alleged Allwood-Anderson.
She argued that the Government should impose a level of participation in the payment policy with the indigent and the young being exempt from fees.
"Once you had the assessment team that would interview to determine the ability to contribute but when the user fee was abolished, the assessment teams were also abolished," noted Allwood-Anderson.
She said the NAJ, which she led loudly and vigorously for years, had long called on the Government to review the no-user fee policy.