Fifty residents of St. Catherine are being trained as community health aides (CHAs) in keeping with the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ strategic framework to prepare the population to live with the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The CHAs, who will be deployed in communities throughout the parish, are part of approximately 1,300 CHAs being recruited islandwide by the Ministry.
Portfolio Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, who met with the CHAs during a training session at Ascot High School in Portmore on Wednesday (July 1), said that the officers are critical to the Ministry’s surveillance activities as part of the COVID-19 containment measures.
“As we move to a new phase in managing the virus, we have to change the way we [operate] and a big part of that change lies in the surveillance. That is, monitoring your environment to see peoples’ behaviours, giving advice on health-seeking behaviours and where you suspect there may be a case of COVID-19,” he noted.
“Part of that surveillance is to report findings, so that we can go in quickly and solve the problem. That surveillance has to take place across Jamaica. This phase of the virus that we are embarking on is to strengthen the surveillance,” he added.
Dr. Tufton said that while the CHAs will be trained in other areas, COVID-19 is the primary focus, because we must maintain active surveillance to minimise the spread of the virus, thereby minimising deaths. You are part of the surveillance team and I welcome you”.
Public Health Nurse, Christian Pen Health Centre, Carrialeisa Henry-Rushton, said the CHAs are being trained is a variety of clinical services offered at primary healthcare facilities.
This includes antenatal, postnatal, curative, rheumatic, mental health, environmental health, immunisation and identifying symptoms of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Importantly, they are also trained to identify the symptoms of COVID-19. The CHAs are to report suspected cases of the virus to the authorised health officials.
“We are having four weeks of training – two weeks in the classroom, two weeks in the field. We are covering all the introductory aspects of all the things they will be required to do… . They are also exposed to do clinical activities like the anthropometric measurement (weight, height), urine analysis, dressings, but the main focus is on case management and community visits, which is their core duty,” Nurse Henry-Rushton said.
“In the light of COVID-19 they are now even more integral… they will bring the information to us, make referrals to the doctor or to the public health nurse or midwife,” she noted.
Leroy Carty of Wakefield Savannah in Linstead, who is also pursuing training in practical nursing, said he is pleased to be able to contribute to the national efforts to contain the virus.
“This is the first time I have experienced a pandemic of this nature… and I am glad to be of assistance,” he said.
Kitson Town resident, Andrea Steele, who works as a security guard and is a certified geriatric caregiver, told JIS News she is grateful for the opportunity to embark on a new career path as well as to play a vital role in supporting the public health sector.
“In educating and interacting with citizens, we will be able to help to prevent the spread of not just COVID-19 but other infectious diseases and to help those persons with chronic illnesses to seek help and to have a healthier population. I am glad for this opportunity to start a new career,” she shared.