Un­healthy projects

Can­cer ini­tia­tive among sev­eral in limbo ... health min­is­ter moves to res­cue $bil­lions

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Na­dine Wil­son-Har­ris Staff Re­porter na­dine.wil­son@glean­erjm.com

THE FAIL­URE of state agen­cies to com­plete sev­eral projects for which money had al­ready been al­lo­cated could have seen the pub­lic health sec­tor wob­bling if Ja­maica had been hit by Hur­ri­cane Matthew last week.

As the na­tion braced for Matthew, Health Min­is­ter Dr Christo­pher Tufton had ex­pressed con­fi­dence that the health ser­vices were ready to re­spond to any even­tu­al­i­ties aris­ing from the pas­sage of the hur­ri­cane.

But that came days after the Na­tional Health Fund (NHF) had raised the red flag after splash­ing out al­most $2 bil­lion on projects to im­prove the coun­try’s pub­lic health sec­tor over the past five years, with not much to show for the ex­pen­di­ture.

More than half of the projects be­ing im­ple­mented by the Govern­ment through the NHF to help save lives and im­prove ser­vice de­liv­ery in the health sec­tor were ei­ther dor­mant or be­hind sched­ule, al­though most of the money had al­ready been dis­bursed to­wards their com­ple­tion.

The stalled projects in­clude one to deal with can­cer care, which was ap­proved in De­cem­ber 2013 for $55 mil­lion with an ex­pected com­ple­tion date of May 2014. To date, only $18 mil­lion has been dis­bursed over the two years, with lit­tle ac­tiv­ity so far in spite of the dam­age can­cer con­tin­ues to cost Ja­maica.


Ac­cord­ing to a re­port seen by The Sun­day Gleaner, the NHF has fi­nanced 63 projects val­ued at ap­prox­i­mately $2.7 bil­lion, but up to June of this year only 23 were com­pleted and there was only $893 mil­lion left to be spent.

The projects, which date back to as early as 2011, were all ap­proved and funded by the NHF through its In­sti­tu­tional Ben­e­fits Fund and are be­ing im­ple­mented by ei­ther the Min­istry of Health or the re­gional health au­thor­i­ties.

“Of the 23 projects com­pleted, 96 per cent or 22 achieved prac­ti­cal com­ple­tion within bud­get,” the re­port noted.

“For the 34 projects that were be­hind sched­ule, there is the con­cern that ad­di­tional fund­ing may be re­quired due to the lengthy delay in im­ple­men­ta­tion. Ad­di­tion­ally, as has been the prac­tice ob­served, the scope of the project may be re­duced to fa­cil­i­tate com­ple­tion within the ini­tial bud­get,” said the re­port which was com­piled by the NHF and sub­mit­ted to Tufton.

Tufton has con­firmed re­ceipt of the re­port and told The Sun­day Gleaner that he has taken steps to move the projects along.

Ac­cord­ing to the health min­is­ter, he is con­cerned about the im­pli­ca­tions of the de­lays, given the ob­jec­tives of the projects.

“Without a doubt, de­lays cost time and money and cer­tainly af­fect pa­tient care,” said Tufton.

He pointed out that some of the stalled projects are geared to­wards im­prov­ing sewage treat­ment and san­i­ta­tion in hos­pi­tals, train­ing health care work­ers, up­grad­ing or ex­pand­ing hos­pi­tals, re­fur­bish­ing heath cen­tres and com­bat­ing non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases.

The health min­is­ter said a com­mit­tee has been es­tab­lished to do an as­sess­ment and pro­vide over­sight re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for the projects that are now in progress.

The com­mit­tee, which met for the first time re­cently, is chaired by en­gi­neer

Peter Jarvis and in­cludes NHF Chair­man Christo­pher Zacca.

It will be in place for the next 12 months, but is ex­pected to sub­mit a re­port to Tufton within the next three months.


“They will have to de­ter­mine through their own as­sess­ment whether th­ese over­runs of time and cost are a func­tion of in­ef­fi­ciency or de­viant be­hav­iour.

“De­pend­ing on the find­ings, it may lead to other things, but right now my goal is to clean up the sys­tem to make it more ef­fi­cient so that tax­pay­ers get value for money and there is an en­hanced ser­vice de­liv­ery, be­cause we are more ef­fi­cient in how we al­lo­cate re­sources,” said Tufton.

“We al­ready have lim­ited re­sources, and part of the mis­sion of this ad­min­is­tra­tion is that we can’t just keep squeal­ing that we want more money, we have to also en­sure that we ef­fi­ciently use the re­sources that we have,” added Tufton.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, there were 14 projects be­ing car­ried out by the min­is­ter with a to­tal ap­proved value of more than $1 bil­lion.

But up to June, less than one-third, or $311 mil­lion, re­mained to be dis­bursed and most of the projects were be­hind sched­ule by an av­er­age of 12 months.

All the health min­istry’s projects which had been deemed par­tially com­plete were done within bud­get.

In the mean­time, the South East Re­gional Health Au­thor­ity (SERHA) and the West­ern Re­gional Health Au­thor­ity (WRHA) each had 15 projects be­ing mon­i­tored by NHF up to June.

The re­port said SERHA had been ap­proved $849 mil­lion for its projects and had spent less than half of the money so far, with 47 per cent of its projects be­hind sched­ule by 14 months, but there was no ma­jor con­cern about those not com­pleted.

In the WRHA, seven of its 15 projects were be­hind sched­ule by ap­prox­i­mately

eight months, with most of the $591 mil­lion it was as­signed al­ready dis­bursed leav­ing it with only $84 mil­lion to com­plete those not yet done.

The South­ern Re­gional Health Au­thor­ity had six NHF projects, with three be­ing be­hind sched­ule by ap­prox­i­mately five months, while the North East Re­gional Health Au­thor­ity had eight projects, with 63 per cent be­hind sched­ule.

“It is im­per­a­tive that the is­sues cur­rently af­fect­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the projects be ad­dressed ex­pe­di­tiously ... ,” the re­port warned the health min­is­ter.


Health Min­is­ter Dr Christo­pher Tufton (left) meet­ing with the mem­bers of the re­cently es­tab­lished Na­tional Health Fund In­sti­tu­tional Ben­e­fits Project Re­view team.

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