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Minister of Health and Environment, Rudyard Spencer, has urged senior medical officers and administrators of the island’s public hospitals to be relentless in their demands for resources for the proper functioning of their hospitals.
At a meeting with the senior health officers from across the island at the Terra Nova Hotel yesterday (Nov.14), Mr. Spencer told them that they are doing a disservice to the health sector, if they fail to request adequate stores to last throughout the year, and not report shortfalls in a timely manner.
“You will not have a sympathetic ear if six or seven or eight months out of the year you don’t have this (stores) because you didn’t get enough, and you don’t have the money. You won’t be getting a very understanding hearing from me, because I believe you would be doing yourself a disservice, doing the institution a disservice, doing serious damage to the health sector, if you know you genuinely need X and you accept significantly below X and don’t complain,” he stated.
Mr. Spencer noted that while the Ministry is now unable to equip hospitals facing shortfalls, all institutions will be expected to prepare a budget come the next financial year. He also urged hospital administrators to spend prudently, reminding them that “you can’t spend as though you have an infinite amount of money” and to “keep a strong check and watch on those who are spending taxpayer’s money.”
The Health Minister encouraged those facing difficulties to use the available complaint channels within the Ministry before “locking down the system.”
He advised them to first approach authority figures within the Ministry’s ranks, and if all fails, to bring the problem to his attention. “I will deal with those problems with dispatch,” he promised.
Meanwhile, the Minister said that he has met with the Nurses Association of Jamaica and the Medical Association of Jamaica, and is satisfied with the attitude of the different health groups, whom he noted, are willing and ready to bring about the “kind of system and the kind of care-giving that is expected of us.”
The Minister stated his support for staff concerns, and invited unity and inclusiveness among administrators, staff and the Ministry.
Mr. Spencer used the forum to address poor working conditions being experienced by staff at May Pen Hospital, where he noted that improvement works are slated to start next week to repair the roof and other infrastructural defects.
He said that as Minister he will be working to improve standards in the health service. Noting that Jamaica’s per capita expenditure on health is “depressingly low” in comparison to other countries in the region, he stated that he will be bringing the matter to the Cabinet “to address in a meaningful way”.
“We have to ensure that we have a place, that customer care, to identify those people who are critically ill. We have a duty to ensure that they get care quickly, and not have to wait 6-8 hours and have to return the next day,” he implored.
Mr. Spencer indicated that he wanted to have dialogue with the senior administrators at least twice per year. “I am here to speak with and listen to you, to see how we can move forward. We will plan and work together,” he assured.