The St. James Public Health Services’ staff complement has been boosted with the addition of 79 newly graduated community health aides (CHAs).
The CHAs, who underwent nine weeks of training, are part of the 1,300 persons who were recruited islandwide by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, in keeping with the Government’s strategic undertaking to prepare the populace to live with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Regional Director for the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA), Errol Greene, who spoke during the recent graduation ceremony at the West Jamaica Conference Centre in Montego Bay, commended the leadership of St. James Public Health Services in assisting to select the recruits.
“The process of you [graduates] getting here today… was one which required a great deal of coordination. [In that regard] I must lift my hat to the leadership of the parish for the great job that they have done in selecting you,” he told the newly minted CHAs.
Mr. Greene also lauded the training team, noting that they were under “some amount of pressure” to execute the programme.
“We wanted the programme to be [sped up] a little bit, [as] we had to deal with the challenges of COVID-19, [and] we had to work around those [issues]. But at the end of the day, everything was done in such a manner that you [graduates] would be prepared to hit the ground [running] after you would have received your formal training and your certification,” he added.
The Regional Director noted that some of the persons who commenced the programme did not complete the training, pointing out that those who did is testament to their hard work.
Mr. Green charged the new CHAs to take advantage of the opportunity presented to them, as the profession could serve as a launching pad for other careers.
For his part, Acting Parish Manager for St. James Public Health Services, Lennox Wallace, told the graduates that their group was the largest cohort of professionals ever employed on a single occasion in the parish.
In this regard, he expressed gratitude to Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, for making this possible.
Mr. Wallace told the CHAs that they are entering the profession at a critical juncture, emphasising that “customer service must remain at the forefront of [your activities] every day that you leave your office to go into the communities”.
He pointed out that “you are the link between the community and the 22 health centres being managed in this parish”.
Mr. Wallace said the graduates’ selection from a field of more than 700 applicants, was indicative of their representing the “cream of the crop”.
Meanwhile, in his address, Deputy Mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Richard Vernon, urged the graduates to put service above salary and self, particularly in light of Jamaica’s maneuvering COVID-19.
He also encouraged the newly minted CHAs to take advantage of the opportunity they have been afforded by virtue of their recruitment.
“Use this, not only as an employment opportunity but as a stepping stone to move to the next level of possibly [becoming] a nurse or doctor,” he said.
“Shaping your minds for the future in health is not just about studying, [or] passing the exams. It is about acquiring the right tools to improve your immediate surroundings, to improve the process, and by extension, to improve the quality of health for our most remote and not so remote vulnerable citizens,” Councillor Vernon said.
Medical Officer of Health for St. James, Dr. Marcia Johnson-Campbell, assured the graduates that staff members of St. James Public Health Services will continue to support them as they execute their duties.
“We are here to help you to do the job that you are here to do; I encourage you to grasp the opportunity. For some of you, this is just the first step on the ladder upwards. A career in health awaits you and we encourage you to seize any opportunity for upward mobility,” Dr. Johnson-Campbell said.