It seems health issues are never far away from the top of the agenda in Jamaica. There is so much to be done, and resources only go so far. There are so many weaknesses in our public health system, and there always seems to be a new challenge looming on the horizon.
One huge headache (a migraine of major proportions, I would say) for our hard-working Health Minister Christopher Tufton was the ongoing nightmare of the Cornwall Regional Hospital – the lumbering, 43-year-old, ill-designed, poorly-maintained, overburdened, 400-bed, ten-story lump of concrete just outside Montego Bay that serves the western side of the island. The issue has been fraught with political accusations and recriminations via Twitter. However, the simple fact, which everyone should simply own up to, is that the public hospital has been thoroughly neglected over decades. Minister Tufton has decided to grasp the nettle and try to resolve it, once and for all.
The rehabilitation of the hospital is a huge task and a complex one. It will also take quite some time and the costs will be high. Minister Tufton has wisely put in place an Oversight Committee to move the mammoth project along. I hope the Committee will report to us regularly. Here is the Ministry’s press release in full:
Ministry of Health Names Oversight Committee for Cornwall Regional Hospital Rehab
KINGSTON, Jamaica. 15 May 2018 – The Ministry of Health has named a multi-skilled, independent Oversight Committee for the rehabilitation project at the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH), in a move to ensure accountability and provide transparency to the Jamaican public.
The five-member Committee is headed by respected academic and trained surgeon, Professor Archibald McDonald, principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona.
Other members include:
Professor Ishenkumba Kahwa, renowned chemist and deputy principal of the UWI;
Errol Alberga, architect and senior partner at Alberga Graham Jamaica, who has done work on the Kingston Public Hospital;
Earl Richards, civil engineer, a past president of the Jamaica Institution of Engineers and retired president of the Airports Authority of Jamaica; and
Claudette Bryan, a member of the industry from Western Jamaica and president of the St. James Lay Magistrates Association.
The Committee is mandated to review information from the Ministry of Health/Programme Management Office on the progress of implementation of key project areas for the CRH.
They are also to:
- Review reports on the delivery of clinical services at the CRH covering the on-site and off-site locations to which services have been relocated;
- Provide recommendations to the Minister of Health on matters related to the execution of the project and advise on any concerns or developments; as well as
- Monitor the compliance and progress of the project in relation to the implementation of the key project areas and ensure that any required strategic changes are undertaken in a timely manner so that the project achieves its goals.
Mandated to meet monthly or as often as they deem necessary, the Committee is, too, to:
- Provide direction and assistance in resolving issues that may delay the timely execution of the project; and
- Provide monthly updates on the project and the delivery of hospital services to the general public.
“I am very happy to serve as chairman of the Committee,” noted McDonald, following what was the introductory meeting of the Committee, held at the Ministry of Health earlier today (Tuesday, May 15, 2018).
“I believe we have quite a competent team to provide oversight for what is clearly a very large project. Professor Kahwa and I have had quite a bit of experience in dealing with mould on the Mona campus and I believe that will serve the Committee well. We have an architect, a civil engineer, and there is Ms. Claudette Bryan,” he said.
“I am looking forward to doing this, what is considered a very important job. I am a surgeon by training and also a medical educator; our students are trained at Cornwall Regional Hospital. This is very dear to my heart,” the UWI principal said further.
In thanking the members for their service, Minister of Health Dr. Christopher Tufton said he was confident that they would fulfil their mandate, given their individual and collective experience.
The Committee members, who are to be provided with administrative support from the Ministry of Health, will be paid travelling and subsistence, in accordance with the relevant Government of Jamaica guidelines. The Ministry will also cover the cost of hotel accommodation in Montego Bay to facilitate the visits approved by the Chairman.
That’s one thing. Then there is the well-crafted EU-funded Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality (PROMAC). The basic aim of the programme is to work towards Jamaica’s achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) # 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. As we have noted earlier, Jamaica did not achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) #4 and #5 related to maternal and child mortality. The programme is also delivering actual equipment and materials in support of maternal health, as it did today. See the Health Ministry’s press release, below:
PROMAC Delivers Shot in the Arm for Maternal, Child Health
KINGSTON, Jamaica. 15 May 2018 – The delivery of health care to mothers in Jamaica has been given a shot in the arm, thanks to the provision of 150 fully equipped midwifery bags to the island’s regional health authorities.
The bags – stocked with equipment for the delivery of newborns and postnatal checks – were acquired and are being distributed under the Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality (PROMAC).
PROMAC is implemented by the Ministry of Health and funded by the European Union (EU) to the tune of Euro 22 million.
“Globally, an estimated 358,000 women die each year from pregnancy-related causes. Ninety percent of these deaths occur in developing countries. Seventy-five percent occur during childbirth or in the postpartum period. However, when women have access to quality reproductive health care, including skilled attendance at birth, the majority of maternal deaths are avoidable,” noted Minister of Health Dr. Christopher Tufton.
“This donation marks an important step in Jamaica’s drive to improve health outcomes for our mothers and children, by ensuring that women have access to skilled and resourced attendance at birth,” he added.
The handover ceremony for the bags was held today (Tuesday, May 15, 2018) at the offices of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), which has overall responsibility for the management and administration of all official development assistance from the EU in the island.
“Today’s event is, indeed, an important milestone as PROMAC helps to propel Jamaica toward achieving a reduction in maternal and newborn deaths,” said Programme Coordinator Dr. Simone Spence, who also heads the ministry’s Health Promotion and Protection Branch.
“Our midwives are oftentimes the ones on the frontline in the care and delivery of expectant moms and we are doing our part to ensure that they have the tools to do their jobs,” she added.
The 150 midwife bags were procured for regional distribution across the island at a total contract value of Euro € 50,938.50.
The purchase and delivery of the bags are one in a series of recent achievements for PROMAC, which aims, among other things, to improve the quality of management of high-risk pregnancies at both tertiary and primary care levels and to improve the population’s health-seeking behaviour regarding maternal and child health.
The programme’s other achievements include the deployment of six ambulances to six primary health care centres, namely the Mandeville, St. Jago, Annotto Bay, and Savanna-la-Mar health centres, as well as to the Chapleton and Alexandria community hospitals. Those six facilities are also shortly to receive radiographic and ultrasound equipment.