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Cabinet yesterday (Dec.18) approved an additional $58 million to fight the malaria outbreak, bringing to more than $88 million, the total allocated by government to the effort.
Information and Development Minister, Donald Buchanan made the announcement at the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House.
He informed that the Ministry of Health and “the health teams, which are directly overseeing the efforts of the Ministry to complete the process of malaria elimination from the areas identified and to continue to ensure Jamaica’s malaria-free status, having been working successfully towards that end.”
Meanwhile, Acting Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry, Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester, told journalists that the government laboratory had recently received the first of two batches of blood samples, dispatched last week to the Atlanta-based Centre for Disease Control and that 15 out of those 317 samples, were confirmed positive for malaria.
She informed that the second batch of some 334 blood samples, were expected back into the island today.
Dr. Campbell-Forrester assured that despite the increased number of positive results, the disease was contained to the previously disclosed areas and was not spreading. “All of those 15 cases were from the affected areas; no new zone has emerged,” she stated.
The Acting Chief Medical Officer outlined that health teams were still on the ground doing regular tests and surveillance. “We are still receiving samples, 200-300 on a daily basis, so there will still be some that remain for us to test, but we are making headway in getting the smears tested”.
She said that whilst it may appear that there was a backlog, “everyday, we have a number of specimens going to the government laboratory.” She noted however that there was a contingency plan in place to source additional technicians to help clear the number of tests to be done.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, at a recent meeting with health officials, gave instructions for the Health Ministry to be modernized in order to keep apace with the rising demands on the sector.
“Further modernization would mean enhancing the ability of the government laboratory to undertake all the functions and we also have to remember that we are in a dynamic situation, where, for instance, we are planning for avian influenza, and have to build our capacity to meet the emerging needs,” Mrs. Simpson Miller had said.
Dr. Campbell-Forrester, at yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing, said that the scope of the modernization would include putting in new equipment and making administrative improvements. “There is a programme now in place to strengthen the quality control of the (government) laboratory,” she pointed out.