JIS News

To improve its service delivery as well as ensure greater operational efficiency, the Health Ministry, since the new administration took office on September 11, established a committee comprising representatives from the Ministry and the Regional Health Authorities, to spearhead a quality agenda.
A seven-member committee was also established to examine and review the work and performance of the island’s four Regional Health Authorities to determine whether there is a need for institutional strengthening.
At a meeting with senior health officers from across the island at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston in mid-November, Health Minister, Rudyard Spencer 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.
He told them that they were doing a disservice to the health sector, if they failed to request adequate supplies to last throughout the year, and not report shortfalls in a timely manner.
To develop on the broadened functions of the Ministry, a two-day Strategic Planning retreat involving health and environment technocrats and stakeholders discussed strategies to streamline the Ministry to create greater synergies between the portfolios.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Grace Allen Young noted that the Ministry had a pivotal role to play in the development of the country, as it had lead responsibility for six of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals and the implementation of several international and regional treaties, charters and agreements.
Minister Spencer said that the retreat was timely and reiterated that the country was depending on the Ministry to succeed.
“Every group that I’ve had discussions with, including the Medical Association of Jamaica, has committed to working together in the best interest of the country,” he said.
Regarding public health safety, there was good news as Jamaica had once again regained its malaria-free status with no confirmed cases of malaria for a period of three months. As a consequence, persons travelling to Jamaica are no longer required to take anti-malaria prophylaxis as was recommended by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States of America as well as the World Health Organization (WHO). However, other public health challenges persisted in the wake of heavy rains in October and this led to an increase in the number of dengue cases. The Ministry declared a Dengue Prevention weekend outreach from November 2- 4, as part of its efforts to mobilize Jamaicans to quell the surge of vector-borne diseases.
Minister Spencer told JIS News that over the three-days, health teams, in special T-shirts, would visit various areas to increase awareness and prompt persons to take preventive actions to reduce mosquito breeding sites.
“We are carrying out a programme of education where we will advise and educate communities as to what the Ministry is doing and why we are doing it and most importantly, to elicit their support in the fight,” he explained.
Mr. Spencer was also a part of the community outreach to demonstrate to the public that at the highest level of the Ministry, there is a serious commitment to rid the country of the problem.
“The fight is now on in earnest to ensure that we [the Ministry] protect our citizens,” Mr. Spencer said.The Ministry approved an additional $25 million to intensify its vector control activities with special focus being placed on five parishes – St. Catherine, Clarendon, Portland, Kingston and St. Andrew.
The public health thrust also included the fight against leptospirosis, which led the Ministry to implement a rat baiting and control project to reduce the rat population in the Corporate Area and $10 million of the $25 million allocated for vector control, was allotted to that effort.
“We have launched a very serious attack on rats; we can ill afford for our children to be exposed to those rats,” Mr. Spencer pointed out.
The project, which was implemented in selected areas, was supported by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
Upgrading health facilities was also on the agenda and a $50 million contract was awarded to Building Innovations Limited to undertake improvement works at the May Pen Hospital in Clarendon. Under the project, work would include structural works, as well as rectifying defects to the roof of the administrative block and the male medical ward.
The area of training was not left out, as on December 13 the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Grace Allen Young announced that $226.35 million from the National Health Fund (NHF) was earmarked for the training of Health Workers. These include nurses, doctors, inspectors/environmental specialists, environmental health officers, family and mental health nurse practitioners, nutritionists, social workers and diagnostic radiographers.
With respect to the Environment portfolio, which was added to the Ministry, Mr. Spencer made significant headway in clearing the backlog of appeals for permission to develop lands, as well as applications for sub-divisions initially denied by the Town and Country Planning Authority and the Local Planning Authority, respectively.
Some 20 of 126 outstanding cases dating as far back as four years, were cleared up over a three-week period.
“This [backlog] was just unacceptable to the government of Jamaica and to the people of Jamaica and in that regard I have set aside Thursdays to listen to all appeals, because it is my commitment to clear off all of this backlog before the end of this year. We are committed to it and we are going to do it,” the Minister said.
Mr. Spencer also announced plans to set up a ‘one stop agency’ to facilitate the quick processing of applications relating to environmental and planning matters.
Additionally, the Minister said that the Ministry was moving swiftly to finalise National Drinking Water Regulations under the Public Health Act, to ensure that all Jamaicans have access to safe and adequate water supply.
He was speaking at the Regional Water Safety Plan (WSP) workshop in November, which was held at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston. Mr. Spencer unveiled the WSP developed by Jamaica, which will become a template for the development of other plans in the Caribbean and Latin American region.
The primary objectives of the plan are to minimize the contamination of water sources and facilitate their purification, through the use of approved treatment methods.

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