Health Minister Suggests More Participation in Sector


Minister of Health and Environment, Rudyard Spencer, has suggested that policy space should be “freed up,” to include the participation of more experts, professionals, and civil society in the health sector.
Mr. Spencer emphasised that health is no longer an issue for just health professionals, citing the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in Asia, in 2003, which he said, “quickly became a global health risk that had to be managed across continents and countries. The impact on the economies was felt across sectors, including transportation, agriculture and tourism.”
The Minister was addressing the opening of the joint 37th meeting of the Executive, Education, and Sixth Practice Committees of the Regional Nursing Body, held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, in Kingston, on January 28.
He pointed out that the local and regional health sectors have to be designed and managed, in light of the dynamic nature of health. Furthermore, Mr. Spencer said the health sectors of the region face similar challenges resulting from climate change, HIV/AIDS, an aging population, chronic diseases and mental illness.
The Minister said that although “we confront the challenges of shortage of critical staff, we battle the systems that are in need of strengthening, and we face a more sophisticated and demanding clientele,” change is being implemented incrementally. “We do not have the luxury of time, neither can we wait. While I do not deny the difficulties, I see vast opportunities that we must embrace with urgency and fixity of purpose,” he stressed.
Mr. Spencer said a more holistic approach should be taken to development, both at the policy and service levels; increased appreciation within and without Government on the role of health in sustainable development; repositioning of health from the periphery to the centre of the region’s development agenda; heightening the need for the implementation of the sustainable development strategies, and to address health issues.
Endorsing the meeting, the Minister pointed out that nurses form the largest professional group in the health sector, and are influential in advocacy, policy development, health promotion, and health service delivery. He noted that experience and expertise are available to the region through this group, and must be harnessed to ensure modernisation of the health sector.
Meanwhile, Deputy Programme Manager, Health Sector Development, CARICOM Secretariat, Sandra Plummer, said the role of nurses has become even more critical with the call for refocussing of the health sector and primary health care.
She noted that nurses form two thirds of the personnel in the health sector in most CARICOM member states, and is “the pulse of the community.” Ms. Plummer said in the new approach to primary health care, the areas of mental health, chronic diseases and the strengthening of health systems, are readily served by nurses, despite the many challenges.

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