Health ministry keeps COVID-19 spending within budget

THE Government has, up to April 6, spent $700 million less than the budgeted amount to fight COVID-19, through the National Health Fund (NHF) Project/Novel Corona Virus Project.

According to figures made available by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, based on a $2.8 billion allocation from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service for the project, the ministry had spent

$2,078, 715,840, leaving a surplus of $721, 284,160.

This included $774.1 million transferred to health regions; $553.6 million on medical equipment; and $500 million on drugs made available through the NHF as the main areas of spending over the period.

In addition, $83.7 million was spent local government and National Solid Waste Management Authority activities; $76.1 million on infrastructure/construction; $42 million on motor vehicles; $20 million on accommodation; $10 million on furniture; and, $8 million on goods and services.

Permanent secretary in the ministry, Dunstan Bryan, confirmed earlier this week that the health ministry received $2.8 billion from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service to bolster its response to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, an additional $182 million will be added to the budget in order to cover the cost of refitting the National Arena in Kingston to be used as a 72-bed field hospital to respond to any surge in COVID-19 cases.

So far, in terms of gear being acquired to protect health care workers battling the disease, the permanent secretary said 80,000 face shields are expected to arrive next week; nine million gloves have been acquired; 500,000 N95 masks have been landed and are being cleared for distribution to health care workers, of which 100,000 will be distributed to private health care workers.

Bryan said that the arena will be used as an isolation facility for peoplewho test positive for COVID-19 as well as those who have mild symptoms of the disease.

—? Balford Henry

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