‘Don’t exclude sicklers’
The Sickle Cell Support Foundation of Jamaica is calling on the Ministry of Health to ensure equity is demonstrated when considering the groups of people who can benefit from subsidies through the use of the National Health Fund (NHF) card.
The Foundation, formerly the Sickle Cell Support Club of Jamaica, is contending that people living with sickle cell disease should also benefit from the subsidies, as the group is “unusually disadvantaged”.
The NHF card provides subsidies to beneficiaries of all ages for 15 chronic illnesses. The illnesses include: breast cancer, prostate cancer, hypertension, ischaemic heart disease, rheumatic fever/heart disease, high cholesterol, vascular disease, diabetes, epilepsy, major depression, glaucoma, psychosis, asthma, arthritis, benign prostatic hyperplasia.
“We need to consider people who have illnesses that have actually compromised their life chances and reduced their ability to become self-sustaining as adults, and that is the case with sickle cell disease,” President of the Sickle Cell Support Foundation of Jamaica Camille Daley told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.
She insisted that the Foundation is not opposed to any illness being on the NHF list, but said that sickle cell disease should not be excluded.
The president admitted that the health ministry announced last year that hydroxyurea would be added to the list of drugs subsidised through the NHF.
Daley said though welcomed, hydroxyurea, which is taken by patients who are assessed as being at risk for having a stroke or are very chronically ill, is not taken by most patients with sickle cell disease. Hydroxyurea increases the level of foetal haemoglobin in the blood and that helps to reduce the frequency of crises.
“That’s not adequate because there are many other drugs, painkillers, antibiotics, drugs for breathing that patients need, and they come to us daily at our office at the Sickle Cell Unit asking for help to pay for these prescriptions, because many of the patients don’t have health insurance,” Daley shared.
She explained that one of the main complications with sickle cell disease is that patients experience painful crises so painkillers are needed and that antibiotics are needed, because sicklers have problems with ulcer infections, acute chest infections on a regular basis, pneumonia quite frequently.
“And also, some patients develop lung problems and they can’t get the drugs that are already on NHF for asthma, because we don’t have asthma, we have sickle cell,” Daley reasoned. “So, although we have asthmatic-type symptoms, we can’t access the subsidy.”
The president told Your Health Your Wealth that the Sickle Cell Unit has since compiled and submitted a list of frequently used drugs to be added for treatment of sickle cell disease to the Ministry of Health, and are awaiting a positive response.
Alicia Turner, vice-president of support and membership for the foundation, explained the circumstances that put sicklers in an “unusually disadvantaged” position.
“Majority of the sicklers can’t afford the drugs because of the cycle of situations and what happens in their upbringing. They are unable to complete school, or maybe their family wasn’t as supportive in sending them to school and allowing them to complete school, so you know that continues on to not getting a successful job, not having a career,” Turner said. “So this is why they are unable to afford proper health care.”
“In addition, we are turned down for health insurance and life insurance because we are seen as a high-risk group,” she continued. “So all of these things are in the negative for us, and that is why we need all of the support that we can get, hopefully starting primarily from the Government, and even the private sector as well would be great to come on board and help.”
The Sickle Cell Support Foundation of Jamaica is therefore urging the Health Ministry to accept the recommendations made by the Sickle Cell Unit to have the additional drugs added to the list of drugs sibsidised by the NHF.
Source: Jamaica Observer
Date: May 24, 2015