JIS News

The Ministry of Health undertook measures to boost the cadre of the sector’s medical personnel islandwide, during the administration’s first year in office.
Chief among these were the expansion of training programmes, particularly for nurses, radiographers, and medical technologists; and action to improve remuneration and conditions of service, to ensure adequate retention of personnel to meet required staff levels.
The Ministry continued the training of medical personnel, facilitated through monetary provisions from the National Health Fund (NHF). Although the facility is a four-year undertaking, arrangements are being made for it to be extended, to accommodate the varying periods of training for the sector’s personnel.
This training thrust was augmented by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), signed by the Ministries of Health and Environment, and Education, and the University of Technology (UTech) in April, which saw the tertiary institution assuming responsibility for training the country’s registered nurses.
Under the transfer agreement between the Ministries, UTech will have responsibility for the management and implementation of the training programmes for the nurses, and the development of programmes, other than those administered by the Ministry, Health and Environment Minister, Rudyard Spencer, informed.
Additionally, the Health Ministry has granted a non-exclusive licence to UTech, to access and use the Ministry’s clinical and non-clinical training sites, for conducting the registered nursing programmes. He pointed out, however, that the Ministry would retain ownership of the training sites and would be responsible for “maintaining optimum clinical sites to meet the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Medicine and other Health Professionals.”
Mr. Spencer explained that the signing represented the culmination of activities that began in 1999, to divest the Ministry’s training functions to other entities. He urged UTech to expand programmes that involve the training of health workers, through partnerships, locally and overseas, and by way of long distance and online learning, to address the shortage of health care professionals in Jamaica.
“It is imperative that we move with urgency to address, in a sustained way, the shortage of health workers in Jamaica. Health is a labour intensive sector and our health outcomes will, to a large extent, be determined by the size and effectiveness of our workforce. Critical programmes, such as immunisation, need hands to provide that kind of service,” the Minister said.
Dean of the Faculty of Health and Applied Science at UTech, Dr. Eugenie Brown-Myrie, said that with the transfer, “all training programmes for nursing in Jamaica are now undertaken at the Bachelors level, which augurs well for the standard of nursing care being delivered in Jamaica.”
Minister of Education, Andrew Holness, said the MoU allowed for the expansion of the training capacity in nursing. “I share the view that education can be an export industry for Jamaica, and I think that is the way we should leverage our extensive asset in education, particularly in training,” he argued.
The sector’s training regimen was further strengthened with the opening of the Hyacinth Chen School of Nursing at the Northern Caribbean University’s (NCU) main campus in Mandeville, Manchester, in August. The facility, which was constructed at a cost of $247 million, was donated by Chairman of the National Commercial Bank (NCB), Michael Lee Chin, and named in honour of his mother.
Speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Environment, Regional Technical Director of the Southern Regional Health Authority (SRHA), Dr. Michael Coombs, said the new school would help the country achieve critical targets in health care delivery.
Efforts at addressing the shortage of medical personnel also saw the administration sourcing professionals from overseas, particularly Cuba. Discussions were also undertaken with the Nigerian High Commission to explore the level of assistance that can be offered by the African nation.
In May, Mr. Spencer announced that some 91 new Cuban health workers, were expected in the island by this month (September). He informed that this group included nurses, and specialists, namely doctors, biomedical engineers, and pharmacists. He advised that these professionals would be assigned to institutions in the island’s four health regions – southeast, southern, western, and north eastern.
Meanwhile, a strategic plan for the improved delivery of primary health care, is being undertaken, and is scheduled for completion in August 2009. The Ministry has established a Primary Health Care Task Force, which has been charged with the responsibility of developing the plan.
It is expected that a framework will be created for the re-establishment of mobile clinics for prevention screening and basic treatment of chronic illnesses in rural areas.
Further, that health centres, which are strategically located, will be upgraded to improve primary health care delivery, including assessments and initial treatment of chronic illnesses, thereby reducing the case load of hospitals.
Additionally, the system of referrals will be improved to rationalise the utilisation of primary as against secondary health facilities.
In the area of emergency medical services, the Ministry has trained personnel, and continues to do so, in order to strengthen this facility, thereby enabling its medical technicians to handle trauma cases and critical illnesses, with real-time communication with emergency centres.
The Ministry is also undertaking the expansion of the pre-hospital and hospital emergency medical services system, as well as development of an integrated communications system.