Editorial

Don't be deterred Dr Tufton, move on with health care overhaul

Friday, May 05, 2017

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We'll hold the applause until we actually see the work started and completed. However, the Government's plan for a major overhaul of the country's health-care infrastructure over two years appears to be the treatment needed for a system that has been ailing for a very, very long time.The plan, as announced by Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton in his contribution to the sectoral debate in Parliament on Wednesday, will see the Government using $3.5 billion from the reserves of the National Health Fund (NHF).

We expect that the usual wails of protest will come from the people who we have, in this space, appropriately named the 'againsters' — that perpetually pessimistic bunch who can never see any good in any plans for the future.

As we pointed out a few weeks ago, the 'againsters' opposed Universal Adult Suffrage, which gave the vote to Jamaicans 21 and over; they opposed moving the voting age from 21 to 18; they thought Independence was foolishness; they were against the building of the National Stadium and the National Arena; they saw no useful purpose in a National Housing Trust; they opposed building a new Parliament; they were against the highways and toll roads; they condemned Emancipation Park and everything else that even slightly resembled a legacy project.

We reiterate that the Government should continue to ignore them, as it is very clear that the health-care infrastructure has not kept pace with the country's population growth and the demands it places on the system.

Dr Tufton has assured the country that using money from the NHF will not affect the viability of the fund. In fact, he said that the measure is in keeping with the NHF's mandate.

He explained that the NHF now has $10 billion in reserves. The Government, he said, commissioned a KPMG study to determine the entity's viability, based on future expenditures and projected revenue streams. Based on the study, the Administration has concluded that with a withdrawal of up to $3.5 billion, the NHF would be able to meet its obligations for up to 10 years, all other things being equal.

“That's good enough for us at this time, as given pending reforms we are comfortable that revenue streams will be bolstered,” Dr Tufton said, adding that what is important is that the country cannot continue to limp along with an ailing infrastructure and pretend that we are able to respond to the health challenges our people face. “We have to do something and we need to do it now,” he emphasised.

He is, of course, absolutely correct.

We suggest that when the 'againsters' start bellowing, the people who mean this country well should simply point them to the current state of Cornwall Regional Hospital, where, as Minister Tufton correctly stated, “the experience is symptomatic of how we have generally approached the maintenance of health infrastructure” — reacting to a crisis rather than acting to prevent one.

The Administration should press the accelerator on this project. The country is in dire need of it.

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