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Story Highlights

  • The Government will be undertaking significant improvements to the health sector in order to enhance service delivery to the public.
  • The Health Ministry has also been working to address the shortage of pharmaceuticals, sundries and other supplies.
  • The Ministry is also in the process of acquiring 18 new ambulances for use in the public health sector.

The Government will be undertaking significant improvements to the health sector in order to enhance service delivery to the public.

Portfolio Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, made the disclosure at a press conference at the Pegasus Hotel today (September 2), where he announced a series of initiatives aimed at addressing inadequacies in the health system, coming out of a comprehensive audit of the four regional health authorities (RHA).

Among the gaps identified were:  challenges with infrastructure of some hospitals; inconsistent supply of pharmaceuticals and sundries in some institutions; stock management challenges, particularly with regard to pharmaceuticals; and inadequate number and function of some small medical equipment.

As it relates to improving infrastructure, Dr. Ferguson said some $460 million will be spent this financial year on the upgrading of hospitals, and $322 million on primary health care.

He said that funds have been identified through the National Health Fund (NHF) for repair of operating theatres and replacement of surgical equipment in several hospitals, including St. Ann’s Bay, which will receive two new operating facilities.

Renovations will also be undertaken at Kingston Public, Victoria Jubilee, Port Maria, Mandeville Regional, Black River, and May Pen hospitals.

The Health Ministry has also been working to address the shortage of pharmaceuticals, sundries and other supplies. Late last month, contracts valued at $3.8 billion were signed with 47 companies to increase the supply of drugs.

 

In addition, the RHAs have been provided with an additional $310 million per month, up from $50 million last year, which has resulted in improvement in the availability of supplies.

This was made possible through an increase in the health budget by 18 per cent, to over $50 billion. The budget for maintenance of buildings and equipment moved to

$500 million from $80 million, and from $4 billion to $8 billion for pharmaceuticals, sundries and other supplies.

Dr. Ferguson said the reform of pharmacy services is being fast-tracked in alignment with Cabinet’s approval of the transfer of pharmaceutical services to the government-owned National Health Fund Pharmaceutical Limited. He said this mechanism is being used to employ over 250 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.

A Pharmacy Management Information System is also being implemented, which will help to track items, their availability, expiration dates and order levels.

“This system will afford us a national picture and allow for the movement of drugs from one facility to another as required for the movement of drugs to places where utilisation is greater, thereby reducing wastage and spoilage,” Dr. Ferguson indicated.

The Ministry is also in the process of acquiring 18 new ambulances for use in the public health sector.

“In June, we signed a contract with Toyota Jamaica to acquire 10 ambulances to augment the existing fleet thus improving our capacity to provide emergency medical care. The procurement is also far advanced for another six ambulances being sourced through the Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality (PROMAC),” Dr. Ferguson said, adding that two more ambulances are to be procured through the CHASE Fund.

 

The Health Minister informed that a medical microbiologist has also been engaged, in order to strengthen infection prevention and control procedures and practices. This individual is charged with visiting and working with the RHAs to ensure that practices are at an acceptable standard.

“Training and recruitment of staff has commenced and will be ongoing. The Chief Medical Officer has met with the team and has issued instructions to ensure that the standard operating procedures are followed and that any non-conformity is quickly identified and addressed,” he said.

The audit of the RHAs was carried out from May to June this year with a view to identifying gaps in delivering adequate health care services at the hospital level. Findings were submitted to the Ministry by the regional authorities in August.