Friday 10 April, 2020

PPP to remove 75,000 with underlying conditions from hospitals

The Kingston Public Hospital

The Kingston Public Hospital

The Government will be embarking on a partnership with private healthcare providers to take some 75,000 Jamaicans with diabetes and chronic hypertension out of public health facilities in a bid to reduce the risk of them contracting COVID-19.

The partnership, which Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said will last some four months in the first instance, is estimated to cost some $350 million.

Tufton made the announcement Tuesday during a press conference that was broadcast digitally in order to ensure that physical distancing is maintained in light of a government directive that no more than 10 persons congregate together.

According to the World Health Organisation, persons with certain underlying health conditions - including hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease - and otherwise compromised immune systems, along with the elderly, are at high risk of dying from COVID-19.

Tufton said the public-private partnership (PPP) would also help to manage the numbers in the hospitals, especially if community spread of the virus becomes widespread on the island.

He noted that many Jamaicans with underlying health conditions congregate daily at public health facilities for treatment. He explained that the aim of the PPP “is to reduce the numbers of patients with co-morbid conditions in hospitals… and by extension reduce the risk of community spread within those health centres”.

“We’ve decided to, under this arrangement, take out two highly vulnerable groups; persons who have chronic hypertension and persons who are diabetic. This number, based on our clinic sessions, (is) about 75,000 across the country,” said the minister.

He said the idea is to outsource the sessional visits by this population to private practitioners who will see them once or twice per month.

He said the government will be asking for proposals from private practitioners to provide the service.

“We will coordinate with them, once the process is complete and we identify a spread across the country, to meet those persons who live within the respective parishes, an agreed rate for each person seen, and these persons would be directed to go to that particular private practitioner to get their regular check up and prescription based on a registered arrangement under the National Health Fund”.

The Minister said that while the arrangement has been under consideration for some time, the government has decided to fast-track the partnership as it is of the view that it will play an important role in reducing the community spread risks within those health centres.

Getting a large number of the vulnerable population out of the public health system is important if Jamaica is to mount a successful response to COVID-19 as the number of cases rise.

The country, like most others, is short on critical equipment and protective gear.

Chief Medical Officer, Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie said 10 ventilators are expected in the island in the next two weeks and another 20 in early May. She did not say what the current capacity was, but ventilators, along with personal protective equipment (PPEs) for frontline healthcare workers, are the most critical items in the COVID-19 battle. They are in short supply worldwide.

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