Sunday 22 September, 2019

Gov't plans $1b initiative to reduce waiting time in public hospitals

The Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, has announced a $1 billion Government-funded initiative that is aimed at reducing the time that is spent by Jamaicans waiting for certain diagnostics tests and even some surgeries in the public health system.

Former Principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor Archibald McDonald, a trained surgeon and respected academic, is to oversee the effort.

“I am hoping to use the next three months to put measures in place and then begin implementation, effective September 2019,” Tufton stated.

He made the announcement Tuesday during his contribution to the 2019-2020 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives.

“I am happy to announce that this year the Government will respond to the long waits for certain day and inpatient surgeries, diagnostic tests and bed space shortages, by allocating $1 billion for an immediate and extraordinary intervention in these areas,” Tufton told the House.

In making his first presentation since the ministry was rebranded the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Tufton said the waiting time in hospitals is far too long.

“We have patients waiting over a year for general surgeries, such as hernia. For other procedures, such as hysterectomies or myomectomies, we have patients waiting for over 10 months.

“For surgeries, including radical prostatectomy, we have patients waiting for over six months,” Tufton said from his prepared text.

“Mr Speaker, people die waiting. Frankly speaking, long waiting times also make a farce of free healthcare and the concept of universal access to healthcare. We have to intervene and fix it,” he declared.

The minister said the concept of the waiting time intervention includes a more efficient record of all requests for these services in the public health sector, and the contracting of private providers, where necessary, to enhance what is already being offered in the public health system.

“We are going to partner with private providers to clean up the system in the interest of the Jamaican people, by making them wait less,” said Tufton.

He said Jamaicans who are diagnosed in the public health system for approved diagnostic tests, will be given the tests free of charge even if they have to get the tests done by an approved private provider.

Among those who are to benefit are persons affected by or suffering from hernias, prostate cancer, uterine fibroids, haemorrhoids; gallbladder diseases, such as gallstones and cholecystitis; and orthopaedic procedures. The patients will be able to have CT scans, MRI scans, ultrasounds, angiography, endoscopy and histopathology done at no cost to them.

“In the case of surgeries, we will look at the priority placement of each surgery and determine a maximum waiting time. Similarly, where possible, we will outsource those procedures to achieve minimal wait,” Tufton said.

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