Health Minister Dr. Fenton Ferguson says he’ll have to make some tough and unpopular decisions in the near future, regarding the issue of financing in the health sector.
These decisions are likely to include reductions in the amount of overtime hours available to doctors, nurses and other categories of workers.
It is a move that could have serious implications for the quality of patient care in the public health system.
Dr. Ferguson says the lion’s share of his ministry’s 36-billion dollar budget for the fiscal year, goes towards paying salaries.
He says the current cost of remuneration in the health sector is something the government can no longer afford.
Those tough decisions may include reducing overtime, or as it’s termed in the medical profession, the number of hours for which doctors, nurses and other health workers, are on call.
Dr. Ferguson admits it will be difficult because of the critical importance of these professions.
Last week, workers at the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay protested because much of their overtime payments were not reflected in their salaries.
The Health Minister admits the situation was handled poorly.
But the non or late payment of salaries and overtime for public health workers is just one aspect of the financial issues facing the Health Ministry.
The Ministry has been unable to remit the bulk of statutory and loan deductions taken from workers paychecks, leaving them with late fees and increased interest charges.
Dr. Ferguson says a payment of 150-million dollars was made last week Friday.
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