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Roll-out of GOJ health card near

... says health minister

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY -WILLIS Senior staff reporter dunkleya@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, January 21, 2013    

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HEALTH Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson says the rollout of the long - promised Government of Jamaica Health card, for which two deadlines have already been missed, is much closer.

“It was a matter discussed at the retreat (Cabinet retreat). Just to say I am awaiting the final comments from the finance ministry and the Attorney General’s Department because we had set a deadline for November,” Dr Ferguson told the Jamaica Observer last week.

He said the document was submitted in early November but had stalled because of a request for further information from the Cabinet Office.

“I have personally been in touch with the attorney general and also the minister of finance and I am hoping that with those responses it will be before Cabinet before the end of this month. Once it is approved by Cabinet, we will be in a position for the roll-out because it doesn’t require parliamentary approval or anything of that sort,” he told the Observer.

He said the policy instrument is one “that will significantly help” the Government given its current fiscal problems.

“In terms of waste within the system, you will now be able to track any kind of waste in pharmaceuticals. Under the present system the patient can go to the Savanna-la-Mar hospital today and get a regime of pharmaceuticals and tomorrow they are at the Princess Margaret Hospital. There would be no connection unless the patient says to the doctor that they were in Sav the day before.

In the present situation, once the card is out you would see what took place in Sav and Princess Margaret,” the health minister said.

“At the same time it becomes a unique identification for patients and it would also have as part of its platform the persons who are on health insurance. Now we rely on the honesty of persons to say I am with Sagicor, etcetera; with the card, a swipe will tell you that,” he said adding that the card would remove the leeway for fraud “in a major way”.

“It will be administered by the National Health Fund that already has the platform through the NHF programme so the platform already is in place so it is nothing new for us,” he added further.

The card, which is expected to be “broader than the current National Health Fund card”, will give patrons of public health facilities ease of access to medications on the Vital Essential and Necessary drug list at no cost. The service will be available at public sector pharmacies and some private pharmacies.

All Jamaican residents are eligible to register for the card, which will be a requirement for all persons who seek to access drugs under the Government’s free health-care plan.

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