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Ferguson still wants review of no-user-fee policy ... Despite positive IDB report on impact

Published:Tuesday | July 25, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Dr Fenton Ferguson

Former Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson still believes there is need to review the no-user-fee policy implemented in 2008 by Bruce Golding administration, when he served as opposition spokesperson.

A study of the no-user-fee policy, conducted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) earlier this year, has concluded that there was improvement in the overall health and productivity of Jamaican citizens, but that the quality of service was not optimal.

The study suggested that the policy "added a yearly average of US$PPP (purchasing power parity) 26.6 million worth of net real production to the Jamaican economy during the period 2008-12".

Yesterday, Ferguson said these numbers proved that a review of the policy was still necessary, and that the Government still needed to make a greater return on GDP, being that it is still less than five per cent, versus the goal of 10 per cent.

The former health minister also said that he was not surprised at the outcome of the study, and questioned where the Government would now find the money to make up the return.

Dr Shane Alexis, former president of the Medical Association of Jamaica, who was quoted in the IDB study, was in some agreement with Ferguson.

Alexis called for a review of the policy to accommodate the needs of both the patients and the medical professionals, especially since Jamaica is more at risk of losing these professionals with all the crimes being committed against them and the better job opportunities abroad.

He asked that the Government see health as an investment and not as a cost, and that it re-examine the flat budget used to pay staff.

The Jamaica Labour Party's youth arm, Young Jamaica, however, praised Golding for his implementation of the policy and in light of the IDB study.

"We have always maintained that while there are challenges in the health system, the policy of making health care accessible is a good direction and a foundation upon which we should build to improve overall health care," said Howard Chamberlain, president of Young Jamaica.

"I am happy that Bruce Golding, then, wasn't distracted by the negative opposition of the PNP but kept his blinkers on in ensuring health care in Jamaica is accessible for all."

- Malique Dawkins