The Ministry of Health and Wellness has officially launched a $75.8-million welfare programme for the island’s public-health workers.
The one-year initiative is expected to bolster staff well-being, in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its impact on workers in the sector.
Speaking at the official launch of the programme today (October 6) at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, Portfolio Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, said it aims to increase staff morale, reduce the effects of burnout, build staff capacity within facilities and boost the overall effectiveness and efficiency of service delivery.
“Now more than ever, we need our healthcare workers to operate at their optimum,” Dr. Tufton emphasised.
Jamaica is now experiencing the community transmission phase of the coronavirus, which means that there will be significant increases in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.
The Minister noted that the five components of the programme are Human Resource Management, Psychosocial Support, Rest and Relaxation, COVID Support, and Wellness.
Dr. Tufton pointed out that among the benefits under the programme are mandatory rest days for staff who would have worked excessive hours, and family support and counselling for those who are most impacted by the disease.
He noted too that the timely return of results for COVID-19 tests is another benefit of the initiative. “Each parish will have at least two testing sites dedicated to healthcare workers,” he said.
Dr. Tufton added that the sites will be available to healthcare workers in the private sector as well.
He pointed out that a staff satisfaction survey is being commissioned this month (October) that will act as a baseline “and enable [us] to access the levels of effort that must be implemented to guide strategic action”.
The Minister further noted that the programme also involves care packages, which will be provided to staff in quarantine and isolation.
“To date, approximately 140 health workers have been infected and more than 500 have been required to quarantine,” he said, adding that appreciation should be shown to the front-line workers.
In addition, Dr. Tufton said staff will also benefit from preferential rates at hotels and other facilities.
“At the end of the project, we will review and decisions will be made on the next steps. So, initially, this is a 12-month staff-welfare project with direct interventions to give support in a number of ways to our public-health staff,” he said.
Dr. Tufton lauded members of the private sector that have partnered with the Ministry for the undertaking.