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Over 75 per cent of health budget pays salaries — Ferguson

BY KARYL WALKER Editor — crime/court desk walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, July 04, 2014    

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HEALTH Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson says the sector is being heavily burdened by huge salary bills for medical staff.

Speaking at yesterday's post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, Ferguson said more than 75 per cent of the recurring budget for health went into paying salaries.

"We have a real problem with remuneration in the health sector. More than 75 per cent of the recurring budget goes into salaries. This is not sustainable. We need more health workers in the sector, but we simply cannot afford it in the present system (especially) with the present level of remuneration including sessions and overtime. We will have to take unpopular decisions, but in the long run they will benefit the sector," he said.

Ferguson's declaration comes a week after medical staff at the Falmouth and Savanna-la-Mar hospitals withdrew their services to protest a 15 per cent cut in overtime and other allowances this month.

He said he would be meeting with members of the board of the Western Regional Health Authority to iron out the contentious issue.

"I have maintained that the manner in which this was done did not allow for dialogue and therefore the negative reaction of the health workers was to be expected. My discussions with the board will include the need to be inclusive and participatory in these kinds of decisions," he said.

Ferguson also promised to sort out another vexing issue -- that of salary deductions not being paid over to the relevant agencies. All arrears, he said, would be

dealt with.

On another subject, the deadly chikungunya virus has already been diagnosed in 17 Caribbean countries and Ferguson warned that it was inevitable that the virus would present in Jamaica.

The vector-borne disease is spread by the aedes aegypti mosquito, the same type that spreads dengue fever.

"Persons are being asked to destroy mosquito breeding sites in and around the home,

businessplace, places of worship and schools by eliminating places where water can settle. Keep water containers tightly covered, fill old tyres with dirt, keep drums and water tanks covered and punch holes in cans before disposing of them," he cautioned.

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