GIVE JA ‘EPOC’ FOR HEALTH

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE -

THE HEALTH of a pop­u­la­tion has a key role to play in the mis­sion to gen­er­ate eco­nomic growth and cre­ate jobs. It is against this back­ground that Fourth Floor par­tic­i­pants stressed that it is time that this be taken se­ri­ously. “We have not recog­nised the role that health plays as a pil­lar of devel­op­ment ... . I have never seen a health tar­get in any IMF (In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund) pro­gramme, and I think it is a huge mis­take by both the pol­i­cy­mak­ers and the in­ter­na­tional part­ners,” said Christo­pher Zacca, chair­man of the Na­tional Health Fund (NHF).

Zacca joined a panel to dis­cuss ways of fund­ing health, and one by one they ex­pressed strong feel­ings about how health care should be funded and man­aged, and shared strate­gies for re­duc­ing the bur­den of ill­ness on the pub­lic sec­tor.

Cit­ing the measly spend on health, Zacca said: “Be­tween Govern­ment and the private sec­tor, only about 5.8 per cent of GDP is spent on health, com­pared to our neigh­bours in the Caribbean – Bar­ba­dos and the Ba­hamas at 7.5 per cent each and Cuba at 11 per cent.”

Wayne Chen, chair­man of the South­ern Re­gional Health Au­thor­ity, in the mean­while quipped: “We see it [health care] as wel­fare, we don’t see it as an in­vest­ment.”

Chen called for the pub­lichealth sys­tem to be prop­erly man­aged and mon­i­tored by an EPOC-type com­mit­tee, which was es­tab­lished to over­see Ja­maica’s fi­nan­cial ar­range­ments with the IMF.

“Pub­lic-health man­age­ment should present a pro­gramme of devel­op­ment

to be ap­proved by Cabi­net and it should be mon­i­tored by such a com­mit­tee, and it can­not be funded only through the Na­tional Health Fund. There has to be a repri­ori­ti­sa­tion away from some of the nonessen­tial ar­eas of Govern­ment into essen­tial ar­eas such as health,” he sub­mit­ted.

Fourth Floor par­tic­i­pants ac­knowl­edged that im­prov­ing man­age­ment ac­count­abil­ity at all lev­els of the sys­tem would cre­ate bet­ter lever­age of scarce re­sources and bol­ster ef­forts to meet pa­tients’ needs and de­liver qual­ity care. This was fol­lowed by a call for good gov­er­nance prin­ci­ples and as­tute man­age­ment to en­sure the ef­fec­tive use of lim­ited re­sources.

“The man­age­ment of re­sources has to be sharp and ev­i­dence­based,” sug­gested Chen.

Zacca de­scribed a sce­nario at the NHF where he found some 66 ap­proved projects in the pipe­line when he took over the chair. The projects, which span the en­tire range of the pub­lic-health sec­tor, to­talled $2.6 bil­lion. He said two-thirds of the projects were over­due and most of them had over­shot their bud­get.

Af­ter mak­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tion to the Min­istry of Health, a com­mit­tee headed by Peter Jervis, project man­ager and en­gi­neer, has been as­signed the task to re­view the out­stand­ing projects and con­sider new sub­mis­sions “to en­sure that there is some co­or­di­na­tion of project im­ple­men­ta­tion”.

He added: “If we can do that, we could save hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars an­nu­ally.”

ZACCA CHEN

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