Thursday 26 November, 2020

5,000 diabetic, hypertensive patients to benefit from Gov't programme

Some 5,000 Jamaicans with diabetes and hypertension are to benefit from a $100 million Government-funded pilot programme that will see them accessing their healthcare at four privately-run health facilities thus significantly reducing their chance of contracting COVID-19 in the public health system.

The programme is in recognition of the high number of Jamaicans with one or more non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which puts them at increased risk of having a more severe outcome if they contract the coronavirus.

It will commence in eight health centres and four private practices in Clarendon, St Ann, and Kingston and St Andrew.

The Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton who first touted the idea in the weeks after Jamaica recorded its first case of COVID-19 on March 10, and who had invited private healthcare practitioners to get involved, provided details of the partnership during a statement in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

“Today (Tuesday) we launched the public-private partnership for non-communicable programme (PPP for NCDs),” said Tufton.

“The initiative seeks to maintain primary care services for non-COVID-19 clients with diabetes and hypertension, enabling them to access routine care through private physicians and to free up the resources of the health centres to focus on critical cases and the pandemic response,” the minister explained.

He said patients on the programme will be selected based on a “pre-defined inclusion criteria”. They will be referred for treatment and care to the private doctors and will benefit from a minimum of four routine care visits and two ad-hoc visits annually. Local health centres will identify the eligible members of the community and refer them to the private doctor to continue their care. There will be no out of pocket expense for patients on the programme.

Tufton noted that the significant demand that the pandemic has placed on the resources of public health facilities has meant that other types of diseases, and particularly NCDs, have not received the attention that they require in terms of treatment and care.

“In this pilot phase, some 5,000 patients who are on the register of the health centres will benefit from this partnership,” he told the House. He also noted that potentially, another 1,000 beneficiaries could be added to the programme as more private providers are identified.

Tufton stressed that diabetes and hypertension pose a significant challenge to the population.

“”Let’s bear in mind…that some 70 per cent of deaths in the population are due to an NCD, lifestyle disease…,” he said.

The health and wellness minister pointed to the most recent health and lifestyle survey which shows that one in three Jamaicans suffer from hypertension while one in eight has diabetes.

“These conditions make persons who may contract COVID-19 more susceptible to poor health outcomes. This is particularly concerning for senior citizens who are at higher risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19,” he stated.

He also pointed to data that shows that to date, over 70 per cent of COVID-19 deaths in Jamaica have occurred in persons 60 years and older while 92 per cent of COVID deaths have occurred in patients with one or more co-morbidities as a risk factor.

“In other words, our deaths, the overwhelming majority (are in people) 60-years and over with hypertension, diabetes, renal issues – co-morbidities linked to an NCD,” said Tufton.

Jamaica’s total number of confirmed COVID-19 infections stood at 10,088 as of Thursday morning with 235 deaths. Some 5,407 patients have recovered.

--Lynford Simpson

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