It would have been easy to become absorbed in the alleged fraudulent activities in one financial institution, but three events last week reminded me that Jamaica still has so many positives.
We empathise with all who may have lost funds from this institution, particularly the elderly. However, they received some comforting news last week when the National Health Fund (NHF) kicked off its 20th anniversary celebrations by announcing new benefits. Let us ensure that our family and friends enjoy these new offerings.
At the press conference we heard from Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton; acting NHF Chairman Shane Dalling; CEO Everton Anderson; Anne Logan, acting senior director - ICT, individual benefits and research; and Shermaine Robotham, director health promotion, PR and customer care.
The NHF is offering increased subsidies, new active pharmaceutical ingredients, and the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test subsidies for male beneficiaries who are 40 years or older. Subsidies will be increased for approximately 400 drugs, benefiting over 350,000 active NHF cardholders. The new active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) will be added to the NHF programme for conditions including arthritis, benign prostatic hyperplasia, breast cancer, hypertension, and ischaemic heart disease.
For the Jamaica Drug for the Elderly Programme (JADEP) programme (for persons over 60) new APIs will be added for five conditions: arthritis, asthma, glaucoma, hypertension, and vascular disease. Approximately 21,000 active JADEP beneficiaries are in this programme. JADEP drugs are free of cost at JADEP participating pharmacies. Beneficiaries are only required to pay a small fee to the pharmacy for dispensing the drug. The fee is $40 per prescription items up to five drugs and $240 for six or more. The cost to fund the addition of these new benefits will range from $600 million to $900 million per annum.
We were reminded that the NHF card covers both NHF and JADEP benefits. There are now 150 DrugServ and pharmacy locations islandwide where the JADEP benefits are available. There is a new online facility on the NHF website, whereby doctors can confirm the conditions for which patients are being treated, thus quickly facilitating the updating of their benefits.
As reported by the Jamaica Observer's Balford Henry, Minister Tufton "called for advocacy around things like school nutrition, sugary drinks, salt, sugar, fats, front-of-package labelling, and tobacco legislation", citing them as being among the key issues affecting the NHF's resources.
He quoted the minister's entreaty: "Don't just tell people that you have medication. Tell them how they can avoid needing the medication. Be bold in that regard; don't be shy. The marketers are not shy when they promote what they are promoting, so we shouldn't be shy."
PRAYING FOR COMMUNITY STRENGTH
Last week's annual National Leadership Prayer Breakfast (NLPB) was held under the theme 'Strengthening Communities through Peace, Justice and Forgiveness'.
Governor General Sir Patrick Allen called for unity at the event attended by political leaders, clergy, diplomats, and private sector bosses. "A house divided against itself cannot stand," he warned. "There is so much in Jamaica which requires us to work together, to work in one accord from the level of leadership. We, as leaders gathered here, must first demonstrate this by setting the example for the people to follow. We must always consider the impact of divisiveness when we, as leaders, make decisions."
Main speaker Bishop Christine Gooden-Benguche, the first woman district president of the Jamaica Methodist Church, continued along this line. Observer reporter Brittny Hutchinson quotes her: "We must join hands to work for the benefit of all, setting aside our differences. The Church is not in competition with the State, or vice versa, for scarce benefits. The Church is a microcosm of this society. We share a common experience. Even where there are differences in methodology, all objectives are clearly outlined in the national pledge and they remain the same."
She continued, "We must speak truth to power and this begins with the Church, under the spotlight fulfilling our God-directed mandate. The Church stands ready to create safe spaces and common ground to facilitate engagement as we work towards efforts at peace-making and community-building."
Youth speaker, 2023 Rhodes scholar David Salmon, said in his message, "We must also have a consensus on crime and maintain an unwavering commitment to its implementation. Placing our communities at the centre of these discussions is essential."
We were uplifted by the song of faith from the Manchester High School Choir and the prayers from our three counties. Congratulations to the VM Group for its continued sponsorship of the NLPB. We at PROComm consider it a blessing to have introduced the live broadcast element for the NLPB over 25 years ago and we continue to serve. "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of."
NATIONAL SPORTS AWARDS
It was a moving feast of athletic talent as we celebrated the triumphs of our Jamaican athletes at the 2023 RJRGLEANER National Sportsman & Sportswoman of the Year Awards sponsored by the RJR-Gleaner Sports Foundation.
There was a sense of pride as we welcomed guest speaker Ambassador Nick Perry, the first Jamaican-born US ambassador to Jamaica. Much to the delight of the Kingston College members in the audience, he applauded his alma mater's sporting prowess.
There on the stage were our superstars Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson receiving a series of awards, culminating in Fraser-Pryce's fifth victory as the national sportswoman of the year. Fraser-Pryce began her reply by lauding Shericka Jackson's "phenomenal performance" and symbolically sharing her award with her. "I'm really grateful that I had an amazing season last year," she said. "The aim was I wanted to run 10.5 and 10.4 … even though I didn't get that it was just still mind-blowing to see year after year you continue to push and to show, you know, athletes, young women ... that anything is possible when you put your mind, your heart, and your soul into it."
She continued: "It was just amazing to see everything unfold… I've been able to affirm in women athletes that nobody gets to write your story but you. It's not about who is standing next to you, who you're competing with; it is about doing you, being and becoming extraordinary in every single thing that you do, and I'm grateful that I had the support of my team and very solid team. I cannot go without ever acknowledging them because they have been the source of inspiration... and to see everything unfold is not just for me, it's for them. It's for my husband, my son, of course, my coach."
The sportsman of the year was powerful hurdler Rasheed Broadbell, who won gold at the Commonwealth Games and impressed in the European Diamond Leagues. Cedella Marley received the Chairman's Award for her unstinting support of our Reggae Girlz and her smashing sportswear designs for our athletes.
I must "big up" family friend Stella Maris altar server and Campion College Sportswoman of the Year Isabel Matthews for her young sportswoman's award.
Surely we can use these positive developments, expressions, and performances to move Jamaica out of this bog of scandal. Yes, we can.