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Story Highlights

  • In July the Government, led by the Ministry of Health, passed regulations to ban smoking in specified public places.
  • A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency helped to reintroduce nuclear medicine technology in order to improve the capacity for diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
  • The establishment of four centres of excellence was one of the promises the Ministry kept during 2013.

The Ministry of Health, this year, created systems of excellence, and advanced healthcare for all, an agenda emphasised by portfolio Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson in his Sectoral presentation in June.

TOBACCO LEGISLATION

In July the Government, led by the Ministry of Health, passed regulations to ban smoking in specified public places. By October, Minister Ferguson was able to report that there was a 20 per cent reduction in asthmatic admissions to hospitals since the policy was implemented.

The Public Health (Tobacco Control) Regulations 2013 are consistent with the Government’s 2013/14 strategic priority focus on human capital development in relation to health care. The ban is also part of the drive to reduce the incidences of non-communicable diseases.

CANCER PREVENTION AND CONTROL

As it sought assistance with undertaking an assessment to formulate a cancer control plan for Jamaica, the Ministry had a successful visit from a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The team also helped to reintroduce nuclear medicine technology in order to improve the capacity for diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Financing was secured to procure two linear accelerator machines for radiation treatment. The Ministry is in advanced discussions with a leading Canadian hospital for the acquisition of the equipment as it seeks to improve cancer treatment in the public health sector.

PUBLIC HEALTH FINANCING

The Ministry ramped up its public health financing consultations during the year with a series of workshops held across the island.  The fora gave the public the opportunity to voice its views on the no-user fee policy, and to discuss sustainable ways to finance the health sector.

PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS

The Annotto Bay Hospital in St. Mary, which was severely damaged during the passage of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, was rehabilitated and reopened in November at a cost of $90 million, in partnership with the private sector.

The project was spearheaded by the Ministry in collaboration with the RJR Communications Group, which launched a public appeal for assistance and contributed $250,000 to the project.

UPGRADING AND EXPANSION OF CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL

Ground was broken in February to begin construction of the over $140 million Cardiac Wing at the Bustamante Hospital for Children through private sector funding. Additionally, the Surgical Ward and the Burn Unit at the BHC was refurbished at a cost of approximately $5.7 million.

OTHER PUBLIC HEALTH FACILITIES

In partnership with the South East Regional Health Authority the Rotary Club of St. Andrew handed over 100 wheelchairs valued at $4 million, to the Kingston Public hospital.

A 25-bed new maternity ward was officially opened at the Black River Hospital, in St. Elizabeth. A building on the premises was converted and refurbished by the National Health Fund (NHF) at a cost of approximately $15 million.

Some US$23.5 million in upgrading works was carried out at Bellvue Hospital in Kingston to overhaul the kitchen; create state-of-the-art Department of Dietetics and Nutrition, which boasts amenities.

The Princess Margaret Hospital in St. Thomas received a state-of-the-art digital X-ray unit, which will increase its capacity to provide quick and efficient diagnostic services. The digital X-ray unit was purchased at a cost of $12.6 million, by the NHF.

CENTRES OF EXCELLENCE

The establishment of four centres of excellence was one of the promises the Ministry kept during 2013. The centres represent best practice in terms of primary health care in the country’s four regional health authorities.

The Santa Cruz Health Centre of Excellence in St. Elizabeth was opened on November 29, where Minister Ferguson also broke ground for phase two work of the facility. The centre will cost a total of $113million to complete.

The other three centres at Darliston, Westmoreland; Isaac Barrant, St Thomas; and Claremont, in St. Ann, are at varying stages of completion.

Ground was broken for the $40 million Claremont facility in August, while the $17.8 million contract for the Darliston centre was signed in February. The Ministry also signed multi-million dollar contracts totaling $25 million for the Isaac Barrant health facility.

Up to June, under the Primary Health Care Infrastructure Improvement Project, work was completed work on 20 health centres at a cost of $54.8 million. The improvement works included those ongoing from 2012.

HIV/AIDS AND SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH

The Ministry implemented a major strategy, which resulted in the creation of one authority for Sexual Reproductive Health. The National Family Planning Board and some aspects of the National HIV Programme were merged.

The move gives effect to one of the key strategies outlined in Vision 2030 Jamaica National Development Plan which is to expand and improve integration of family planning, maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS, into primary health care.

GOJ HEALTH CARD

Cabinet approved the introduction of a Government of Jamaica Health Card for the first time in the country’s history. The card will facilitate proper systems of monitoring and evaluation and the optimization of service delivery channels for pharmaceuticals

PHARMACY SERVICES

As the Ministry sought to make a shift in the composition of personnel who deliver pharmacy services, the NHF was moved into more hospitals and public health centres in a bid to take over these facilities and offer a new level of service. The move was aimed at increasing the 50 pharmacists and 101 pharmacy technicians catering to public facilities to 155 pharmacists, 101 pharmacy technicians.

IMMUNIZATION

The Ministry strengthened its immunization campaign during the year, staging a number of parenting boost immunizations with parenting workshops across the island to raise awareness of the process of immunization and its importance, during Vaccination Week. The week (April 21-27) was observed, in collaboration with the Early Childhood Commission, under the theme: ‘Vaccination: A Shared Responsibility.’

ORAL HEALTH SERVICES

The process of amending the Dental Act began during the year, as the Ministry pursued its goal of modernizing dentistry in Jamaica, to protect public safety through setting and enforcing reliable and consistent standards.

To this end the Ministry pursued the establishment of a national Dental Examination Board, which will be responsible for ensuring the highest level of competence. This endeavour is at an advanced stage.

NATIONAL HEALTH INFORMATION SYSTEM

The move to transition to an electronic system of storing health records continued with the process of implementing a National Health Information System. To this end, the National Health Information System Strengthening and eHealth Strategy for 2013 to 2017 was completed and implementation for the first year began in April 2013. A number of activities were undertaken in accordance with the Strategy. 

EMERGENCY FLEET BEEFED UP

In September, 19 new ambulances were presented to all Regional Health Authorities, as part of Government’s plans to revitalise the country’s emergency vehicle services. They were purchased from Toyota Jamaica at a cost of US$884,323, through funding from the NHF. A total of 17 ambulances were also purchased at a cost of US$884,323 for all health regions. Deployment of the units began in July.