KINGSTON — Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Marlene Malahoo-Forte, says increased collaboration and partnerships among members of the Jamaican Diaspora and the Government is critical to improving the quality of local health care.
“There is a genuine need for improved healthcare in Jamaica but, unfortunately, at this time the Government is not able to provide (all that is needed), and this is why partnerships with the Ministry of Health becomes so critical,” she stated.
Senator Malahoo-Forte was speaking at the opening of the Jamaican Diaspora and Friends of Jamaica Healthcare fact finding mission, at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston on Monday (October 10).
She said the forum and fact finding mission will assist in providing answers to challenges facing the Jamaican healthcare system.
“It will continue the work on seeking better understanding of what needs to be done (to improve the health sector). It will provide that gap analysis – what kind of equipment and where are the shortages,” she said.
“I would like to see us develop our public institutions in Jamaica, to the level where no one considers going overseas, as a first option, for healthcare. I think this partnership will assist us, in some way, in getting there,” she stated.
Senator Malahoo-Forte said that the forum was evidence of the success of the partnership between medical professionals residing in the Diaspora and the Ministry of Health, which was encouraged at the recent Diaspora Convention in Ocho Rios, St. Ann.
She also noted several useful recommendations came out of the Convention, in relation to the improvement and development of the sector, including a recommendation for the establishment of a framework to streamline and co-ordinate initiatives organised by the Diaspora.
“We want to develop a skill set register to identify the various medical professionals who are available in the Diaspora, and this will allow us to facilitate the necessary network, and also to provide assistance to Jamaica in various medical fields where there is no expertise, or where there is a shortage,” Mrs. Malahoo-Forte stated.
She said the participants of the Convention also recognised the need to encourage greater collaboration between medical training facilities overseas and in Jamaica, in an effort to improve local standards.
The Diaspora groups engaged in healthcare outreach initiatives indicated that they would consider adopting public health facilities in Jamaica, which would be coordinated to ensure that there were no duplications with respect to the facilities adopted, she added.
She indicated that the forum was no coincidence, as it was the result of a lot of work over the years and a lot of strategic thinking and refinement. It also reflects coincidence of priorities between the Organisation for Strategic Development in Jamaica (OSDJ) and the Ministry of Health, in conducting needs assessment at hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
The week-long mission, being held October 10 to 15, was organised by the Jamaican Diaspora Healthcare Sector and Friends of Jamaica, in association with the Ministry of Health. It is part of an ongoing effort to integrate overseas healthcare outreach to Jamaica into the Ministry of Health’s Strategic Plan.
Executive Director, Jamaica Diaspora Institute, Professor Neville Ying, while welcoming the participants, said that the forum and mission resulted from a similar forum in Minnesota in November, 2010.
He noted that after much discussion at last year’s meeting, four critical needs were identified, including healthcare professionals in different disciplines; equipment for hospitals and clinics; pharmaceuticals and other supplies; and a world class medical records management system for hospitals.
“This international fact finding mission will determine more precisely, the level and scope of needs in these four areas as they focus on patient care, professional development and infrastructure development,” he noted.
Individuals and groups from Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States who attended the forum, participated in other activities including tours of the University Hospital of the West Indies, the Faculty of Medical Sciences (UWI), the University Of Technology School Of Nursing, the University of Technology Dental School and the Kingston Public Hospital, on Monday afternoon.
On Tuesday (October 11), the team will also attend a ground breaking ceremony at the Medical Centre of Excellence at the May Pen Hospital, Clarendon and will also conduct other tours and missions throughout the remainder of the week.
By Athaliah Reynolds, JIS Reporter