Starting as of June 1, people receiving prescribed medication from a public health centre in Seychelles will have to pay a prescription fee, said a top health official.
The implementation of the Prescription Fee Policy was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers last week. It comes after the Minister of Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning, Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, announced in his budget address last year that the government will charge $1.20 (SCR 25) for prescriptions.
The health sector in Seychelles - a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean - receives the second-highest budget allocation at over $73 million. Loustau-Lalanne said that "as a country, we will need to re-think how we continue to sustain such an investment in the future."
The principal secretary for health, Bernard Valentin, said there is a certain group of people that have been identified who will not pay the fee. This includes people under the age of 18, pensioners above the age of 63, youth who are over 18 but are studying fulltime, expecting mothers and certain cases of emergency yet to be determined.
"There is a certain group of people who come to health centres to collect a specific medicine on a regular basis. We cannot ask these people to pay each time, as this will become a financial burden on them. We are thinking that with the long list of exemption that we currently have, around 90 percent of prescriptions will be exempted," said Valentin.
He added that the aim of the policy is mainly to start creating awareness among the public on the fact the health costs the government a lot.
"With this sensitisation, eventually, people will be more responsible and think more about prevention, and take better care of their health to prevent them from getting sick," said Valentin.
It was pointed out that the fee is $1.20 (25 SCR) per prescription, and that it will cover the number and different kinds of medicine being prescribed.
Valentin said that there will be a designated area in the clinic where the public will be able to make the payment each time that they see the doctor.
"The person will see the doctor, get their prescription and written there will be the age of the person. For people who are exempted, a stamp will be placed on the prescription as the age of the patient in such cases will not clearly indicate if they should be paying or not. This will make it easy for the person issuing the medicine to implement the policy," said Valentin.
He added that it is the Ministry of Finance that will decide what will happen to the funds collected. June has been set as the day the policy will come into effect, allowing ample time for the necessary procedures to be put in place before the implementation stage.