Jamaica has called on Commonwealth countries to continue to make collaborative best efforts and for the Commonwealth Secretariat to nurture partnerships and enhance coordination in the public health interest.
This was the message from Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, to the 34th annual Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting (CHMM), which ended today (May 19), at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.
Dr. Bisasor-McKenzie told the forum that the essential role of coordination and cooperation with internal and external partners in any public health response is among the lessons reinforced from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It has been Jamaica’s experience that partnerships enable and reinforce resilience. At all phases of Jamaica’s response to COVID-19, public, private, local and global partnerships were especially valuable for resource mobilization,” the Chief Medical Officer said.
She outlined some of the strategic alignments that Jamaica developed and utilised to treat with the issues related to the pandemic.
“Coordination with internal stakeholders reinforced that the COVID response was an ‘all-of-country’ response,” the CMO said, highlighting that the formation of a Cabinet subcommittee headed by the Prime Minister and a Parliamentary subcommittee ensured coordination and cooperation at the highest level.
Dr. Bisasor-McKenzie informed the gathering that Jamaica was able to secure emergency stockpile for critical supplies and have surge capacity installed for large-scale quarantine operations. This was done through various diplomatic relationships, non-governmental organisation linkages and private-sector entities, locally and through the diaspora.
The CMO also noted that Jamaica’s relationships with the Pan-American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) were vital to the early acquisition of testing capacity.
“Due to these collaborations, Jamaica built capacity for dedicated in-patient COVID-19 isolation facilities and put in place requirements for the safe administration of COVID-19 vaccines as they became available,” she said.
Dr. Bisasor-McKenzie used the opportunity to recognise fellow Commonwealth nations India, the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa and Suriname, which all played a critical role in Jamaica’s response with donations of vaccines and supplies.
She also thanked other Caribbean neighbours for the solidarity and support shown.
The CMO highlighted that the COVID pandemic exposed the tenuous relations that small economies have with manufacturers and distributors of critical supplies.
“It demonstrated that through partnerships, with coordination and cooperation, we can help each other through times of crises. No country can be safe if safety exists only within their borders,” she contended.
Dr. Bisasor-McKenzie further argued that the coordinating roles played by regional and international organisations are critical to bridge the gaps.
“It is, therefore, prudent that as we move forward, we continue to work together to strengthen the links that kept the world afloat over the last two years,” she said.
The 2022 CHMM is being held under the chairmanship of Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon Christopher Tufton.
The Commonwealth Health Ministers met from May 17 to 19 to discuss lessons learnt from COVID-19 responses to build recovery, improve the resilience of health systems and advance universal health coverage goals.
The meeting was held under the theme ‘The Road to COVID-19 Recovery: Lessons Learnt for Building Health Systems Resilience to advance UHC (Universal Health Coverage) and Global Health Security in the Commonwealth’