High Dependency Units at Victoria Jubilee to Reduce Maternal and New-Born Deaths

At the official opening of a new neonatal facility at Kingston’s Victoria Jubilee Hospital, Minister of Health and Wellness pointed out one “lesson from COVID”: That no economic development can be achieved without an investment in public health. Ah, perhaps our political leaders are beginning to connect the dots now.

Photo 2
Dr. Garth McDonald, Senior Medical Officer, VJH (left) led the official tour of the newly developed High Dependency Units at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital on June 24. Present from left are: Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton; Mr. Joost Depapepe, Consul/Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Belgium; Mrs. Elise Fairweather- Blackwood, Director of Nursing Services; His Excellency, Josep Maria Bosch Bessa, Spanish Ambassador and Her Excellency, Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska, Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Jamaica. (Photo: South East Regional Health Authority)

The event this morning was live streamed on social media. It is the second of four major donations for Jamaican hospitals under the amazing Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality (PROMAC) funded by the European Union (EU) in Jamaica. I call PROMAC amazing, because it fills a great need in women’s health. Jamaica fell shorton the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) #4 and 5 in the areas of maternal health and infant mortality. A lot of work needed to be done in this area to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #3, which has these aims: “By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100 000 live births”; and “By 2030, end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1000 live births.”


PROMAC is all about partnerships and has also formed a vibrant Civil Society Collaborative Forum  which is there to protect, inform and advise parents and stakeholders on aspects of maternal health and wellbeing.


Well, the Victoria Jubilee Hospital, which is the largest maternity hospital in the English-speaking Caribbean, has a long history. Officially opened in 1887 in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee year, it also trained student nurses. Now it has well over 200 beds and performs between six and eight thousand deliveries annually.

The Victoria Jubilee Hospital in Kingston.

As Minister Tufton noted, the Hospital is a remarkable institution that only gets attention from the general public and media when something negative happens; however, its achievements should not be belittled. Quite a few women only come to the doctor for the first time when “the baby is coming” – having had no pre-natal checks whatsoever. So, the medical and nursing staff at “Jubilee” are almost starting from scratch and often face challenges when the woman is already in labour. Let us give them a lot of credit, please.

Here is the Ministry of Health and Wellness press release on today’s ceremony:


High Dependency Units Expected to Play a Key Role in Reducing Maternal and New-Born Deaths over the Next Five Years

Kingston, Jamaica. June 24, 2020: Pregnancy is a period of great expectation and also a time of anxiety for pregnant women and their families. Access to high quality healthcare facilities, equipment and skilled professionals, plays an important role in helping to reassure expectant women and ensure the best outcome; especially for those who face a higher risk of something going wrong during the pregnancy.

The European Union-funded Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality (PROMAC), implemented by the Ministry of Health and Wellness in line with a Jamaica-EU agreement has equipped four hospitals with the resources and skills needed to care for the sickest and most vulnerable pregnant women and new-borns from across the country.

Today (June 24) Minister of Health & Wellness, Dr the Hon. Christopher Tufton along with Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska officially opened the second such facility under the programme – a maternal high-dependency unit (HDU) as well as a refurbished space for neonatal care at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital (VJH) located in downtown Kingston.

Senior Medical Officer at VJH, Dr Garth McDonald said: “The new six- bed maternal HDU, an operating theatre and isolation suite will increase the hospital’s capacity to care for critically ill patients who are usually transferred from other hospitals across the island to VJH.” In addition, he noted that the expansion of the neonatal facilities to accommodate 4 high dependency beds, creation of isolation suites that facilitate the ventilation of up to 16 premature babies who need respiratory support at one time – as well as the refurbishment of space for a 24-bed general nursery facility, will result in even more lives being saved.

Dr McDonald expressed the hope that with the outputs from PROMAC, including four high dependency units across the country, equipment supplied and training provided to medical personnel including obstetricians, “Jamaica will see a reduction in its maternal, neonatal and perinatal mortality rates comparable to developed countries within the next five years.”

Latest available data indicate that Jamaica’s maternal mortality ratio now stands at 89 per 100,000 live births. The goal is to reduce this to 27.5 per 100,000 by 2030 in keeping with the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals. The infant mortality rate is 16.6 per 100,000 live births, as at 2018.

EU Ambassador, Malgorzata Wasilewska said the COVID-19 experience has highlighted the importance of countries having strong public health systems and responses to protect and preserve life not only in emergencies but at all times.

“Ensuring access to health for all- from the poorest to the richest; from the new-born baby to the elderly is essential for enjoyment of the right to life. This high dependency unit is a visible demonstration of our commitment to supporting partner countries to strengthen their health systems, ensure that no one is left behind and no human right is ignored. It is our hope that this facility and the service provided here will inspire increased confidence and promote and preserve the dignity of all who enter its doors.”

VJH has been providing comprehensive maternal and child care as well as gynaecological and reproductive health services to pregnant women from across Jamaica for over 130 years. It is the largest referral maternity hospital in the English speaking Caribbean and delivers approximately 7,000 babies per year.

The seven year-old PROMAC initiative which is funded to the tune of 22 million Euro will come to an end in November 2020.

Photo (1)
Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton (right) and Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Jamaica, Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska (second left), cut the ribbon to open the J$476M Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality (PROMAC) High Dependency Units (HDU) buildings at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital on June 24, 2020. Sharing in the moment is Mr. Wentworth Charles, Board Chairman, SERHA (left). Photo: SERHA.

2 thoughts on “High Dependency Units at Victoria Jubilee to Reduce Maternal and New-Born Deaths

  1. Excerpt from my thesis “Prescription for an Ailing Nation”.
    • It is a healthcare problem in that a lack thereof interferes with quality of life, educational opportunities, and productivity. The basic health of the population is one of Jamaica’s most important assets, and has a direct correlation to the development of the nation. Basic health encompasses essential public and private measures to educate the people about prevention and cure of the most common avoidable or curable diseases, and other forms of maladies.


    1. Yes. Thank you for this! As the Minister said yesterday, public health impacts our socio-economic development. And as Usain Bolt tweeted just this morning, “There’s no wealth without health”!


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