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Time to revise no-user fee policy in hospitals - Tufton

Published:Sunday | February 8, 2015 | 2:21 PM

Former member of the Bruce Golding cabinet, Dr Christopher Tufton, says the no-user fee policy in the health system may need revision.



Tufton's comment comes amid recent reports of patient overload at the May Pen hospital in Clarendon and findings in a 2013 CaPRI survey, which shows that nearly three-quarters of patients and hospital staff agree that the policy needs revision to ensure people who can pay do so.



According to Tufton, who is now co-executive director of the Caribbean Policy and Research Institute (CaPRI), it appears the no-user fee policy was not sufficiently supported by adequate assessment nor enough provided to support the expected increase in use of public health facilities when it was introduced. The policy was introduced by the Bruce Golding administration, of which Tufton was a part, in 2008, based on the party's promise in the lead up to the 2007 general elections, which was won by the Jamaica Labour Party.



Writing in today's Sunday Gleaner, the former JLP minister and senator says the introduction of the policy increased access to public health facilities significantly, but he also notes that it was implemented contrary to trends in other developing countries, where cost-sharing is part of the practice to improve the quality of healthcare.



However, in an attempt to clarify his comments to The Gleaner-Power 106 News this afternoon, he says what may have been adequate for the policy to operate under the JLP administration at the time, may not be enough now.



Against that background, he says the present People's National Party government has no choice but to rethink the approach to public healthcare given the strain on the system.



He says there are very few political and developmental benefits to be derived from continuing the policy in its present form and says, therefore, both Government and Opposition must be bold and engage in constructive debate on the issue.



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