Feature
Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Jacqueline Bisasor-McKenzie.
Photo: Okoye Henry

Story Highlights

  • The Ministry of Health and Wellness’ programme to ensure more timely access to healthcare for Jamaicans is progressing well with an overall 40 per cent increase in patient visits to targeted health centres.
  • Concomitant with this is a decrease in waiting time at hospital emergency rooms, Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry, Dr. Jacqueline Bisasor-McKenzie, tells JIS News
  • The ‘Reducing Waiting Time Initiative’ was piloted in 2016 in seven hospitals and eight health centres through support from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), in response to overcrowding at hospital emergency departments. It has since been expanded to other facilities.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness’ programme to ensure more timely access to healthcare for Jamaicans is progressing well with an overall 40 per cent increase in patient visits to targeted health centres.

Concomitant with this is a decrease in waiting time at hospital emergency rooms, Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry, Dr. Jacqueline Bisasor-McKenzie, tells JIS News

The ‘Reducing Waiting Time Initiative’ was piloted in 2016 in seven hospitals and eight health centres through support from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), in response to overcrowding at hospital emergency departments. It has since been expanded to other facilities.

The goal is to strengthen health centres, so that persons will be encouraged to seek primary care at these facilities rather than the hospitals, while at the same time, improving emergency departments to better streamline patient flow.

“It is about changing the attitude towards the health centre and for persons to view the health centre as the first port of call when you are ill,” Dr. Bisasor-McKenzie tells JIS News.

With an initial budget of approximately $300 million, improvements have been made to infrastructure and services at the targeted facilities.

The main activities undertaken at the health centres include increasing opening hours, enhancing physical capacity to manage more patients and improving service offerings.

For the emergency departments, physical facilities for waiting and screening have been improved, processes have been computerised, and customer service areas established to provide greater advocacy and support for patients.

Dr. Bisasor-McKenzie says that, so far, under the initiative, physical improvement works have been completed at the Mount Salem Health Centre, St. James; St. Ann’s Bay Health Centre, St. Ann; and Mandeville Health Centre in Manchester.

“With funding provided by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) under the Enhancing Emergency Medical Care Project, we have been able to fund the expansion of two additional health centres – Savanna-la-Mar Health Centre and Black River Health Centre,” she informs.

Work at the Black River Health Centre has been completed with Health and Wellness Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, officially reopening the facility on May 3.

The Black River Health Centre in St. Elizabeth, which was recently expanded and upgraded under the Reducing Waiting Time Initiative.

 

Opening hours at the clinic have been extended from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., to 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Hours of operation have also been extended at the Slipe Pen Road Health Centre and Glen Vincent Clinic in Kingston; St. Jago Park Health Centre and Greater Portmore Health Centre, St. Catherine; May Pen Health Centre, Clarendon; Mandeville Health Centre, Manchester; Savanna-la-Mar Health Centre, Westmoreland; the St. James Comprehensive Health Centre; and St. Ann’s Bay Health Centre.

Furthermore, improvements have been made to waiting areas and triage processes at Kingston Public Hospital and Bustamante Hospital for Children, Kingston; Spanish Town Hospital, St. Catherine; May Pen General Hospital, Clarendon; Mandeville Regional Hospital; Black River Hospital, St. Elizabeth; Savanna-la-Mar Public General Hospital, Westmoreland; and St Ann’s Bay Hospital, St. Ann.

Dr. Tufton, in his remarks at the reopening of the Black River clinic, says he is pleased with the progress made under the Reducing Waiting Time Initiative.

Health Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, greets patients in the waiting area of the Black River Health Centre in St. Elizabeth, which was recently expanded and upgraded under the Reducing Waiting Time Initiative.

 

He says that the extended hours at clinics will help to facilitate “the 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. persons” and other late-evening emergencies.

“We have said that if we are going to get people to use the health centres more, then we need to provide services beyond the average daily hours, so that people who work will be able to access service at later hours,” he notes.

He says that the intention is to implement this measure in every health facility across the country, adding that this will be a game changer in reducing the amount of cases in the Accident & Emergency (A&E) departments in hospitals.

Dr. Bisasor-McKenzie says that the expansion and upgrading of the Black River clinic has created an inviting and refreshing atmosphere.

She notes that patients will be encouraged to visit the health centre more frequently for checkups and management of their chronic conditions, allowing for early treatment of illnesses, thus preventing the need for visits to the emergency room and hospitalisation.

Carla Forbes, who is a patient at the Black River clinic, tells JIS News that she is happy about the improvements.

She says that the work done has enhanced the aesthetics of the facility and improved service delivery.

“To see it completed is wonderful,” she says.