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Healthcare in Jamaica

When you think of life in Jamaica, the constant sunshine and reggae music might be the first things to spring to mind, but living there is about much more than that tourist stereotypes. Check out our expat guide to Jamaica for a deeper insight into the “Land of Wood and Water”.
International health insurance is highly recommended for expats in Jamaica.

The Limited Health Infrastructure

Jamaica’s healthcare system has several issues with its infrastructure, and this has affected the availability and quality of the institutions. Depending on your location in Jamaica, the healthcare facilities available to you might be somewhat restricted in terms of quantity. While every parish has at least one small hospital, comprehensive emergency care is only available in the cities of Kingston and Montego Bay. Outside of the larger cities or in remote parts of the country, emergency services are limited in both quality and quantity.

All in all, there are about thirty hospitals and clinics on the island. To find the one nearest to your place of residence, consult the Ministry of Health website to see a map of hospital locations with contact details.

Public and Private Institutions

There are between 30 and 40 hospitals and clinics in Jamaica, many of which are public institutions, meaning their services are offered free of charge to all citizens and residents. However, they are often unreliable, and their quality varies widely. The high rate of violent crime that unfortunately plagues the country only adds to the problems, and many public hospitals are frequently overcrowded. Low funding from the Jamaican government and scarcity of qualified personnel due to widespread “brain drain” (a matter we have also discussed in our article on working in Jamaica) are further detrimental factors that make the public healthcare system in Jamaica untrustworthy for locals and expats alike.

However, there is an alternative in the form of private healthcare institutions, which an offer a higher standard of medical care in a better environment, but obviously this comes at a price. Nonetheless, anyone who can afford treatment in private hospitals and/or private health insurance usually opts for it. Most of the local population is unable to pay for private healthcare and health insurance out of their own pocket, further exacerbating the issues with the public hospitals.

Healthcare Standards and Insurance

It’s possible that you might find the healthcare available in Jamaica below the standard you are used to in your home country, and this applies for both public and private institutions. Be aware that a number of serious health conditions cannot be treated on the island, which in a case of emergency may require you to be evacuated, either to your home country or to a closer country with sufficient facilities.

As an expat, it is advisable that you either negotiate full medical insurance from a local insurance company in Jamaica with your employer, or, if you would like even more comprehensive services to be available to you, buy international health insurance before you relocate. This will not only grant you easy access to all private hospitals and clinics on the island, but might also cover the costs of evacuation in case of severe medical issues.

Look After Yourself in Jamaica

Make sure to get your Hepatitis A and B shots before leaving for Jamaica, and keep up to date with routine vaccinations required by your home country, especially MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), diphtheria, and tetanus. It is essential to protect yourself against mosquito bites, due to the presence of both the Zika virus and dengue fever in the country, and non-essential travel to the country is therefore not recommended for pregnant women. There is also a high rate of HIV and AIDS among the Jamaican population, so ensure you take the necessary precautions to prevent transmission. 

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

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