Gov’t launches public-private health provider programme

Gov’t launches public-private health provider programme

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

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The Government yesterday entered into a multimillion-dollar pilot programme with four private health facilities that will provide primary care to non-COVID-19 clients with diabetes and hypertension.

The move, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton explained, will free up the resources of public health centres to focus on critical cases and the pandemic response.

“The Government is committing $100 million to this pilot and we have taken steps to ensure that patients who will be referred from the public health system to these selected private practitioners will receive the highest level of care, through the issuing of interim guidelines for the clinical management of diabetes and hypertension for public and private practitioners, developed in partnership between the ministry and the Association of Consultant Physicians of Jamaica,” Dr Tufton said at the signing ceremony used to launch what has been dubbed the Public-Private Partnership for Non-Communicable Diseases programme (PPP4NCDs).

He explained that under the programme, local health centres will identify eligible members of the community and refer them to the private practitioner to continue their care.

“The health centre, of course, will ensure that communication is maintained with the private practitioner and the necessary protocols in place for patients to be referred back to the public health system if the need arises,” Tufton said.

Patients, he explained, will have no out-of-pocket costs and will still be able to access National Health Fund (NHF) Drug Serv and the NHF-engaged private pharmacies.

“Additionally, patients will still be able to access diagnostic or monitoring tests free of cost and the private practitioners will be able to provide point-of-care testing for diabetic patients, thereby reducing the need to interface with the public health system. Patients are also allowed four routine care visits and two ad hoc visits annually,” the minister added.

Dr Tufton said the significant demand that the novel coronavirus pandemic response has placed on the resources of the country’s health facilities has meant that other types of diseases, particularly non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and other ailments, have not received the attention that they require in terms of treatment and care.

“In this pilot phase, some 5,000 patients, who are on the register of the health centres, will benefit from this partnership. Of those, approximately 50 per cent have their conditions controlled. Potentially 1,000 beneficiaries can be added to the programme as we identify more private providers,” he said.

According to Tufton, the World Bank estimates that a third of household income will be spent on NCDs, while loss in labour productivity, over a 15-year period, will amount to over $47.3 billion.

“Direct medical costs — cardiovascular diseases and diabetes — over the same period are estimated to be over $29.8 billion. Our most recent Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey tells us that one in three Jamaicans has hypertension and one in eight has diabetes. These conditions make persons who have contracted COVID-19 more susceptible to a poor health outcome. This is particularly concerning for our senior citizens who are at a higher risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19,” Tufton said.

“Our current data show that over 70 per cent of COVID-19 deaths in Jamaica have occurred in persons 60 years and older, while 92 per cent of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in positive patients with one or more co-morbidities/risk factors,” he added.

He said when the expression of interest for the public-private partnership programme was advertised earlier this year, the ministry received more than 60 applications from private providers.

“This is what living with COVID-19 will demand of us,” he said. “The Ministry of Health and Wellness is committed to deepening our partnership with private providers as we seek solutions to deliver the best health care for the Jamaican people.”

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