Medicine + Health
In Jamaica, the Ministry of Health (MOH) is the Government organization ultimately responsible for the provision of health services. The MOH is also mandated to provide healthy lifestyles and environmental practices programmes on a national scale. The Ministry, and its Regional Health Authorities (RHAs), agencies and related organizations comprise the public health system and are responsible for health care delivery.
The Jamaican health sector is made up of the public sector, which provides services to the majority of Jamaicans at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels at a highly subsidized cost (no user fees are charged) and the private sector which provides an alternative to the public sector. The private sector is largely the leader in the categories of new technological initiatives and health modalities. (Vision 2030 Jamaica National Development Plan, p.6)
THE PRIVATE SECTOR
The private health sector provides health insurance, financing, pharmaceutical and health care delivery services. Little information is available on the sector as there is very little reporting to the Ministry. Currently, the private health sector is largely unregulated.
There are about eight private hospitals and 2 000 practicing physicians. The private hospital sector only handles about 5 per cent of the total hospital services with the public hospitals handling the most complicated and costly cases, particularly for patients who are poor and those who are not insured. (p 28-30)
THE PUBLIC SECTOR
The current organizational arrangement of health care delivery within the public sector is mainly via hospitals and health centres distributed across the various health regions.
Hospital services in the public sector are administered through the boards of the four Regional Health Authorities.
Hospitals are classified as A, B or C according to the level of service and the size of the population served.
Type C Hospitals are basic district hospitals. In-patient and out-patient services are provided in general medicine, surgery, child and maternity care. Basic x-ray and laboratory services are usually available.
Type B Hospitals are situated in the larger urban centres. They provide in-patient and out-patient services in the four basic specialties: general surgery, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology and paediatrics.
Type A Hospitals are multi-disciplinary. They are the final referral points for secondary and tertiary services. The Kingston Public Hospital and the Cornwall Regional Hospital in St. James are examples of such institutions.
There are 10 dental, two family planning clinics and a total of 322 health centres islandwide. (p. 24-25)
See the entire Vision 2030 National Development Plan for the Health Sector
THE MINISTER OF HEALTH
The MOH is headed by a Minister of Health who is a senior member of the Cabinet, the executive arm of the Government of Jamaica.
Along with providing regulatory oversight for health facilities, the minister is responsible for health policy, food and control, family planning and pesticide control.
For a full list of the responsibilities of the Office of the Minister of Health, click here.
JAMAICA AND THE UN'S MILLENIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS
The priorities of the Ministry of Health are selected based on national health needs and diseases, as well as the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for global development. As a result, priorities for the Ministry of Health include the need to reduce/control the spread of HIV/AIDS, focus on Maternal and Child Health, for example, reducing maternal mortality; and implementing the Healthy Lifestyle Policy, promulgated in 2004, to control the incidences of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (CNCDs) that are lifestyle related.
THE ABOLITION OF USER FEE POLICY
On April 1, 2008, the Government of Jamaica abolished user fees from all public health facilities except for the University Hospital of the West Indies.
The universal abolition of fees came one year after user fees for children were removed.
The reasons behind the abolition of user fees are not unique to Jamaica, as a developing country and are as follows:
(a) User fees policy has been shown to be regressive and a major impediment to access to health. The Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions 2007 shows that 50.8% of the poorest quintile who reported an illness did not seek health care because they could not afford so to do
(b) User fees have increased poverty because they reduce the disposable incomes of the poor and deplete their asset base
(c) User fees policy impacts negatively on utilization resulting in deteriorating health outcomes, increasing morbidity and reduced life expectancy.
The health institutions where the no user fee policy in enforced include all public hospitals and government-run clinics.
Search for a government-run hospital near you.
Use diGJamaica to find a hospital or clinic in your area
Ministry of Health. www.moh.gov.jm/home
Auditor General's Report on the Ministry of Health's Management of prescription drugs
Public Health Act