Dr Duane Sands, Minister of Health. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff
By Rashad Rolle
Tribune Staff Reporter
A VARIETY of Public Hospitals Authority fees will be likely raised in the new fiscal year, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands said yesterday.
This includes the storage fee when remains at the morgue are not collected on time.
Late last year, funeral directors protested the proposed hike, prompting Dr Sands to halt and review the plan along with some 400-plus proposed fee changes.
Yesterday, Dr Sands said: “I expect those fees I’m minded to approve will go into effect in the new fiscal year. In the meantime there is no real penalty to store bodies at PMH.”
The new fiscal year begins July 1.
It’s not clear by how much the fees will be increased, but the change will be among various fee changes that happen.
“What we will do in terms of final decision is base the decision to change fees on the outcome of the budgetary allocation we receive,” Dr Sands said. “If we need a certain amount of money to run either the Public Hospitals Authority or the Ministry of Health and we get X amount of dollars from the Consolidated Fund, then the balance will have to come from somewhere. The PHA Act allows the PHA to retain earnings from various fees; the fees were gazetted many years ago but have not been collected though they are required to be collected by law. We will make a decision whether to collect only those that ought to be collected or if the shortfall is still too much we have to increase them to levels recommended. After a preliminary discussion, I am minded to approve the changes in the fees.”
Dr Sands also said the country needs a new morgue.
“The need for a new lab that functions more consistently with the needs and service demands of the country are clear,” he said. “There is a significant case load of medical examiner or coroner type cases which are different from clinical autopsies and body storage needs. The spectacle of grieving families outside the blood bank and outside that area around the morgue is akin to the spectacle you see on Bank Lane (where the courts are).
“Apart from that spectacle, the viewing facilities are simply antiquated and leave much to be desired. One thing we’ve tried to do as a matter of priority is identify a suitable place for a facility to house a new pathology lab with expanded medical or coroner type facilities and we propose to invite forensics from the police to have some space as well. The original concept is to have a national blood bank there as well. That plan, one of the early considerations, suffered a painful death when the fiscal reality of the major priority allocations to other projects became clear and we’ve had to shelve that idea until we can find the financial headroom to make it happen.”
The number of bodies at the morgue has challenged the facility’s storage capacity, The Tribune understands. A senior source in the health industry has told The Tribune there are 74 bodies in the long-term storage area of the morgue because of delays in court trials.