The no-user fee policy in Jamaica's public hospitals has been having a tremendous impact on pharmaceutical and medical supplies, with the demand far outweighing the supply.
This was the discovery made by Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) during a review of the system, which was introduced in 2008 under the Bruce Golding-led administration.
Conducting the study between April 15 and May 20, 2012 across all 14 parishes, the think tank found that medication and pharmaceutical supplies in the hospitals were quickly depleted because too many patients wanted free medication and the pharmacies could not keep up with the demand. It also found that certain medications were not readily available and most drugs were frequently out of stock. It was also discovered that basic drugs for diabetes and hypertension were compromised and antibiotics were always in short supply.
Some patients were forced to utilised private pharmacies and pay the premium cost for medication, because the hospital pharmacies could only partially fill their prescriptions - and, in some cases, not at all.
"There is more pressure on the resources and we cannot manage; there is just insufficient medical supplies to meet this need," was the general complaint the group received from health-care personnel.
CaPRI noted that, "Most times the pharmacy runs out of supplies. When user fees were in, the pharmacy was never out of supplies like now."