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#SectoralDebate: 'Healthcare is not free', says Tufton

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Minister of Health, Dr Christopher Tufton has urged Parliamentarians to be honest with themselves and with the people of Jamaica, as “healthcare is not free”.He said there is practicality in recognising that increasing health care costs and the government's inability to afford the ideal expenditure of six per cent GDP, according to the World Health Organization's (WHO) standard, has not been possible.

“Frankly speaking, if free means long delays, poor quality or no access for critical services, it is easy to appreciate why so many persons question the practicality of the term free healthcare,” the health minister reasoned.

He noted that discussions around free healthcare have generated mixed reviews from various stakeholders and commentators, however “the fundamental question is: who pays?”

Tufton said it is his belief that the government has a responsibility to ensure that no Jamaican, who cannot afford health services, is left to die for a lack of access to such service.

“We must guarantee, as a country, universal access to all as we should never return to the days when poor Jamaicans are afraid to go to hospitals because they do not have the user fee to pay at the registration window,” he argued.

However he said Jamaicans should begin understanding the importance of taking personal responsibility for personal health.

“Personal responsibility means healthy habits of diet and exercise, getting regular check-ups to know your health status, and critically also, personal responsibility means contributing to your health care cost once you are in a position to contribute”, he emphasised.

Meanwhile, Tufton added that work on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) has started. This, he said, is an appropriate response to the impracticality of a literal interpretation of free health care as free healthcare is unworkable without the NHIS.

According to the minister, the work is now progressing as consultants from WHO and PAHO have generated a first report looking at NHIS options for Jamaica.

“We are now in the process of recruiting another international experienced consultant who will work with the committee that has been established to drive the deliverables of a NHIS,” he said.

Tufton was making his contribution to the Sectoral Debate this afternoon in the House of Representatives.

Shanica Blair

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