Friday 3 July, 2020

$2b allocation to health sector for initial COVID-19 fight - Holness

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (file photo)

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (file photo)

Jamaica's health sector has been allocated $2 billion as part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced on Thursday.

The prime minister, who was making his contribution to the 2020-2021 Budget Debate, said some of the money will be used to procure 400,000 N-5 masks and other personal protective equipment (PPEs) for healthcare workers.

“This will improve the capacity of health workers to respond with confidence during this epidemic,” Holness told the House.

Apart from the PPEs, the $2 billion will be spent as follows:

1) Over $150 million to develop new quarantine facilities to house an additional 150 persons.

2) Over $287 million is to be spent to retrofit several hospitals and health facilities to create surge capacity to be able to accommodate patients during the peak of the COVID-19 epidemic.

3) Some $198 million is to be spent to purchase equipment, including ventilators for the high-dependency units in various hospitals. The prime minister noted that these will be critical for the five per cent of COVID-19 patients who will have severe complications from the disease.

4) $547 million is to be spent to procure drugs, especially for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

The prime minister said the Government stands ready to provide more funds from the $10 billion COVID-19 Contingency Fund, should the need arise.

He said the Government is aware that the global pandemic “may well be a recurring disruption with greater frequency in an increasingly connected world with a growing population.”

To this end, he said “The Government is committed to building a robust health service with the capacity and capabilities to respond to the current and future health demands of our population.”

Holness said the current capacity of the health sector is already stretched with present demands, including the outbreak of dengue, “which is still a major call on our health resources”.

He told the House that the Health Ministry has developed a comprehensive plan for the country, looking at various infectious outbreak scenarios. The plan was approved by the National Disaster Risk Management Council prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. It was costed and the $2 billion budget was approved by Cabinet.

Up to Thursday, Jamaica had recorded 16 cases of the respiratory disease, with one associated death.

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