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Ferguson says no decision to reintroduce hospital user fees

Monday, January 21, 2013    

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HEALTH Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson has dismissed reports that patrons of public health facilities will return to paying user fees as early as this monthend.

"Nothing of that sort," the Health Minister told the Jamaica Observer last week.

"We came to power on the basis that the user-fee policy should be removed and where we are now, I have just received the preliminary draft of the study of the Inter-American Development Bank, (IDB) on the sustainability of the health sector, I will be reading it this week," the health minister said.

He said the IDB study "will inform" the Government as to the full impact of the current policy. The health minister said the administration has no intention of springing a surprise on the Jamaican populace.

"I am going to be doing a series of national consultations because I want to get a feedback. The intent is to do some consultations and to see in this difficult time what might be the menu of things that will be able to maintain quality care even as we recognise that all of us will have to make some sacrifices especially persons who can afford to pay," he told the Observer.

In 2008, the then Jamaica Labour Party Government removed user fees from all hospitals, with the exception of the University Hospital of the West Indies, and health centres in fulfilment of one of its 2007 election campaign promises.

Dr Ferguson is on record as saying although his Government wanted to continue to offer free health care, it cannot afford to adequately fund quality care across the system.

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