JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Ministry of Health has been praised for its role in coordinating the eight-day visit to Jamaica by the United States Naval Hospital Ship Comfort, from May 6 to 13.
  • This commendation has come from Officer in charge of the Comfort’s medical site located at the National Indoor Sports Centre, Captain Andrew Nelson.
  • While berthed in Kingston, the ship’s medical team is expected to see several hundred patients daily between two medical sites established at the Maxfield Park Health Centre, and the Arena.

The Ministry of Health has been praised for its role in coordinating the eight-day visit to Jamaica by the United States Naval Hospital Ship Comfort, from May 6 to 13.

This commendation has come from Officer in charge of the Comfort’s medical site located at the National Arena, Captain Andrew Nelson.

The vessel’s visit forms part of a six-month humanitarian mission across the Caribbean region.

While berthed in Kingston, the ship’s medical team is expected to see several hundred patients daily between two medical sites established at the Maxfield Park Health Centre, and the Arena.

The sites are open to the public from 9:00 a.m. each day with services being offered including: optometry, dentistry, general medicine, women’s health, paediatrics, and pharmaceutical dispensing.

Speaking with JIS News, Captain Nelson explained that the engagement with the Ministry has been fairly smooth, based on the structured approach taken to the ship’s visit.

“Compared to some of the other stops, Jamaica is fairly sophisticated. They have a good infrastructure, a well delineated medical health system with people who communicate very well, and they’ve interacted with us a lot to coordinate this effort. Those people we’ve interacted with seem to really know their jobs and know Jamaica’s needs” he explained.

The officer pointed that it is more favourable to go into areas that have sound medical infrastructure, especially in the event that patients need referrals for follow-up treatment and care.

“The organization here is great, because if we spot something that is unusual or serious and needs more sophisticated care, then the Ministry of Health is here on location. So referring that patient is very easy” he added.

Captain Nelson, who is also a physician, said on the team’s first day ashore during the setup phase, the Ministry’s Director of Emergency, Disaster Management and Special Services (EDMSS), Dr. Melody Ennis, visited the site to outline her expectations, and apprise the visiting medical personnel of the local team’s capabilities.

This, he contended is evident that Jamaica “is serious about the health care of its citizens. “

Captain Nelson further explained that his team also had to work through the best ways of ensuring that the proper documentation procedures for their engagements were undertaken, without slowing down the flow of patient screenings.

“We want to see patients; but at the same time we want to be responsible and make sure that the paper work is done. So we had to figure out how to appropriately do that within the Jamaican system,” he indicated.

Captain Nelson added that Ministry of Health volunteers were working alongside USNS Comfort’s registration team, and that the Senior Medical Officer for the South East Regional Health Authority, Dr. Heather Reid-Jones, was on site to help in coordinating her team’s activities, as well as identifying the key point persons for referrals.

“It is very helpful to know who the ‘go-to’ persons are in the different areas. So having her physically present to make that person to person interaction is great,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ennis has described the collaboration with the USNS Comfort’s team as a “fantastic experience.”

“We have a well established framework for our service delivery, so we have not had much of a challenge to integrate with the USNS team. The Ministry of Health welcomes the partnership, and this is just another indication of the solid link that exists between Jamaica and the United States,” she said.

“The added component to this mission is the subject matter expert exchange, which is the intellectual academic exchange of best and promising practices. At the same time they share with us the next steps (in) technology. The interaction among professionals is welcome and gives us a chance to see where we are positioned in the global picture of health, and based on the feedback, Jamaica is right there with our international counterparts” she added.

The EDMSS Director said the USNS Comfort team’s endorsement is a boost to Jamaica’s health care system, and thanked the local stakeholders partnering with the Ministry to facilitate the visit.

They include: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade; Jamaica Information Service (JIS); Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF); Jamaica Defence Force (JDF); Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB);Jamaica Red Cross; Food for the Poor; Rotary Club; Mustard Seed Communities;, Independence Park Limited; Kingston Container Terminals (KCT); Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ); Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA); Help Age International; Lions Club of Mona; the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA); and Wisynco