The Ministry of Health and Environment is devising a quality agenda to improve the delivery of service in the health sector. Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry, Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester, speaking at a recent meeting involving Ministry officials and hospital administrators and senior medical personnel at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston, disclosed that a committee, comprising representatives from the Ministry and the regional health authorities, is working on this initiative.
Minister of Health & Environment, The Hon. Ruddy Spencer
“We have come up with a definition for quality assurance in health, we have looked at what the structure at the Ministry of Health should be, and we are going to be working down to the regional and parish levels as to what are the quality priorities that we must address,” she said.
She told the public health representatives that the development of the quality agenda “requires your input.”
Stating that Ministry of Health is seeking to become a quality organization, the Chief Medical Officer urged the administrators to examine the quality of the service they offer to the public and assist the Ministry in rebranding itself as it moves forward.
“We have to look at the quality of the work we do. We need to ask what are the outcomes we expect, who are we working for, are we being efficient,” she pointed out. She added that negative client perception and publicity could be eliminated with a different attitude that includes taking a team approach to health care.
According to Dr. Campbell-Forrester, “every single complaint that we have has a genesis, not in whether the procedure was right or wrong, but in how we communicated with our clients.” “I am going to challenge us all, that we have to see the patients as central to whatever we do, and that whatever happens, we must communicate with them in a way that each one of us would like to be communicated to by our parents, our family members. If we can have that in our minds, then when we approach that client, we can approach them differently,” she pointed out. The Chief Medical Officer urged physicians to participate in training opportunities related to non-medical matters offered by the Ministry, with a view to improving their communication and reporting skills. “We have to build a different kind of image and brand the Ministry of Health accordingly,” she noted. “We have to work together; if we don’t, we’ll find that we end up with more problems that we can cope with. We have to understand that everything we do is a team approach and we must work together with that,” Dr. Campbell-Forrester added.
In the meantime, former President of the Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ), Dr. Alvin Bailey, has called for a review of hospital user fees, which he contends are excessive and burdensome to patients, especially the elderly.
He pointed to the need for improvements to be made to the island’s health centres, so as to encourage more persons to access primary care services at these facilities. He noted that people are “refusing to go to the health centres opting instead to move in large droves to hospitals to get primary care” adding that this creates a burden on the accident and emergency (A&E) departments.
The former MAJ President also implored the Minister of Health and Environment, Ruddy Spencer to lobby the support of more doctors in private practice to assist in public hospitals, as a means of improving the quality of health care. “There is no shortage of doctors in Jamaica,” Dr. Bailey said, noting that “very little is done to encourage private doctors to come to the public hospitals to help out especially in the A&E departments.”
Minister Ruddy Spencer in the meantime, appealed for unity and collaboration among health care workers. “We must plan and work together,” he stated, noting that the meeting marked the beginning of a new attitude and a new approach to increase cooperation in the sector.
Adding that he hoped to meet with the administrators at least twice per year, the Health Minister said: “I am here to speak with you, and listen to you to see how we can move forward.”