Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, has announced the setting up of an Advisory Body on Diaspora affairs, to work on the streamlining of medical missions to Jamaica; and the appointment of Liaison Officers at all public hospitals.
Speaking at a session on Health at the just concluded 5th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference, held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, in St. James, the Minister pointed out that a terms of reference has already been drafted and the Liaison Officers will be appointed to perform.
“This is to ensure that Jamaica continues to receive the support for the health sector without the many usual delays. These liaison officers, if they fail to perform, they will be removed. It is not just to satisfy a theoretical arrangement, it is to get the work done,” the Minister emphasized.
Dr. Ferguson said the Diaspora represents the greatest possibility for Jamaica, relative to its health care delivery system, “once we can synergize and put the structures in place.”
“For the many who would have been disappointed, who would have called and wanted to help, but just got the block…We want to apologize profusely, because we know what you have gone through,” Minister Ferguson told the audience.
The Advisory Body will be chaired by Mr. Victor Cummings, with the other members being: Professor Neville Ying, Dr. Kevin Harvey, Henry Batson, Dr. Thelma Nelson, Miss Antoinette Patterson, Mrs. Stephanie Shaw-Smith, Ava Gaye Timberlake, and Leslie James.
They will be working with the Ministry and its agencies to facilitate and increase the responsiveness to the work of volunteers as well as health missions, and the work of the Diaspora.
The recently established International Co-operation Unit in the Ministry will provide guidance and work out the type of gifts that are suited for Jamaica. In 2012, Jamaica hosted 172 medical missions, which saved the Government approximately US$393,000 in the areas of pharmaceuticals and equipment to the public health sector.
“It is for us to look at the gaps, financially, and human resource, and to see how we can close those gaps. We will not be getting any more funding, relative to the budget. This is why, in the last three weeks, I have been on the road consulting about health financing. We feel that it is not just about use fees, or no user fees. It is about how we finance health going forward, and for us to recognize health as a development issue,” the Minister said.
By Garfield Angus, JIS Reporter