Three newly refurbished residences at the National Chest Hospital, Kingston, which will accommodate Cubans in the Jamaica/Cuba Eye Care Project, were handed over by Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, on Friday (December 18).
The eye care professionals will be working in the new Opthalmology Centre at the St. Joseph’s Hospital, Deanery Road, Kingston, which will be officially opened next January. Under the arrangements, patients who undergo surgery at St. Joseph’s will be sent to the National Chest Hospital to recover.
Refurbished at a cost of approximately $6 million, the fully furnished residences will house 22 persons.
Noting a significant shortage of eye care professionals in Jamaica, the Health Minister said he was grateful for the partnership with Cuba, through the Eye Care Project “that has supplied us with a cadre of competent and dedicated health professionals to help fill this human resource gap, and provide Jamaicans with effective supplementary surgical eye care services,” he stated.
A renovated ward of the National Chest Hospital in Kingston that will accommodate the pre-evaluation process and post-operative patient care under the Jamaica/Cuba Eye Care Project.
He said that the Ministry was examining training opportunities, to increase the cadre of ophthalmologists in the Government service. Six local health professionals, from the Kingston Public Hospital and the University Hospital of the West Indies, are now undergoing training in ophthalmology.
Emphasising the commitment of the Ministry to assisting persons suffering from eye-related illness, the Minister pointed out that under the no user fees policy at Government’s health institutions, eye care patients are able to access medication on the Vital Essential and Necessary (VEN) list free of cost.
Chairman of the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA), Lyttleton Shirley, said that the event marked the beginning of a paradigm shift at the National Chest Hospital, with the institution entering the new realm of ophthalmology, after years concentrating on comprehensive management of conditions affecting the chest.
One of the hospital’s wards was also renovated and fitted with 22 beds plus accessories to accommodate the pre-evaluation process and post-operative patient care. It was also outfitted with offices, with access to laboratory facilities.
The Minister, Mr. Shirley, and other dignitaries, including Cuban Ambassador, His Excellency Yuri Gala Lopez, and the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Dr. Jean Dixon, toured sections of the hospital.
Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer (left) examining a bed in one of the three residences at the National Chest Hospital in Kingston that will house the Cuban medical team who are part of the Jamaica/Cuba Eye Care Project, during a tour of the hospital on Friday, December 18, to officially hand over the residences. Looking on are: Cuban Ambassador, His Excellency, Yuri Gala Lopez (right) and Chairman of the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA), Lyttleton Shirley (second right).
Mr. Spencer signed an agreement with former Cuban Ambassador, Gisela Garcia Rivera, in July, to establish the eye care centre at St Joseph’s Hospital to provide ophthalmology services for the English speaking Caribbean. The agreement stipulated that the Cuban Government would provide equipment for the Centre and specialist eye care staff for three years, while Jamaica would provide the Cubans with accommodation, travel and meals.
Another agreement was also to extend the technical co-operation between the two countries for an additional two years. This will provide 85 Cuban health specialists, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists and lab technicians for Jamaica’s public health system.
Since the Jamaica/Cuba Eye Care Project began four years ago, some 20,000 Jamaicans have been screened, while over 4,000 surgeries have been performed. These patients receive treatment for four major conditions including, Cataract, Pterygium, Strabismus (crossed eyes) and Ptosis also known as drooping of the upper eyelid.
In August, 2005, the Governments of the Republic of Cuba, Venezuela and Jamaica together with Caribbean partners, Dominica, Guyana, St. Lucia and Suriname, signed the historic Bilateral Agreement ‘Mission Operation’ for their nationals to receive medical attention in the field of ophthalmology in Cuba.