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MAHFOOD: We can't afford another crisis

Published:Thursday | February 12, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Jamaica cannot afford another event like the chikungunya virus (chik-V) epidemic that had a significant impact on the country for which no one was held accountable, even though it cost the country considerably in terms of deaths and gross domestic product, stressed William Mahfood, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica.

"So putting in place appropriate management, communication and accountability systems is very important if we are serious about development," he continued.

Addressing the Medical Association of Jamaica's Golden Jubilee launch at the Terra Nova Hotel in St Andrew yesterday, he said health, the economic and social development were inextricably linked, particularly as it relates to productivity. An example of which was the approximately 13 million man-hours and $6 billion in economic losses Jamaica, experienced last year due to the chik-V outbreak.

Mahfood: Jamaica needs to spend more on health sector

William Mahfood, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), has bemoaned the fact that the health sector is grossly underfunded.

He cited the 2007 UNFPA State of the World Population Report, which indicated that Jamaica's expenditure on health as a percentage of gross domestic product was 2.7 per cent, far below the recommended 10 per cent, compared with 6.3 per cent for Cuba, 2.9 per cent for Haiti, and 1.5 per cent for Trinidad and Tobago.

"This translates to inadequate budgetary support for the health ministry, which has resulted in poorly staffed and poorly stocked health-care facilities, poor working conditions, and inadequate numbers of health personnel, among other things," he said.

Mahfood, who was addressing the Medical Association of Jamaica's Golden Jubilee launch at the Terra Nova Hotel in St Andrew yesterday, stated that access to health care has been a perpetual challenge for health-care providers who have to take into account important factors such as equity, efficiency and effectiveness in designing health-care systems to meet the four universal goals of good health care - to relieve symptoms, cure disease, prolong life and improve quality of life.

In fact, he said, there are divided views on the pros and cons of a free health-care system, within Jamaica's fiscal constraints.

"Access to good health care is crucial for the country's well-being … . Therefore, the issue has now become: How can we continue to sustainably and adequately finance the health sector, and at the same time, provide satisfactory health care and service to all? We need to be able to mobilise enough resources to finance expenditures for basic public and personal health services, without resorting to excessive public-sector borrowing and creation of excessive external debt; and to raise revenues equitably and efficiently."

MANAGING COSTS

The PSOJ president noted that perhaps, the best way to manage health costs was to practise and preach prevention through healthy lifestyles, rather than try to find the money at the back end, because, "what we currently know is that approximately 70 per cent of all health cases relate to non-communicable diseases, or put another way, preventable diseases".

Mahfood advised that apart from tackling new viruses as they come up, "we also need to do more to educate the public about how to prevent non-communicable diseases, which are avoidable. Just exercising more or changing aspects of our diet can go a far way in preventing some of these diseases".

anastasia.cunningham@gleanerjm.com