Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, says the Ministry is seriously addressing the findings of an assessment of the national health information system, and is applying the attention and resources to secure improvements in a realistic and carefully planned manner.
He was speaking at the third annual National Health Research Conference at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston on November 22.
The assessment, carried out in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), indicated that there is need to improve the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) infrastructure, policy and legislative frameworks, related human and financial resources, and overall data management.
“We have secured funding from the World Bank to develop a national strategic plan for national health information systems strengthening and modernization, and we continue to conduct activities to improve the existing paper-based system in preparation for the design and establishment of electronic health records,” Dr. Ferguson stated.
He said that attention is also being given to the information governance requirements for the electronic health records, with specific attention to security, privacy and confidentiality.
Turning to HIV/AIDS, the Health Minister told the gathering of local and regional stakeholders that measures to combat the disease are contained within the overall policy initiatives that the Jamaican Government is pursuing, to create an all-embracing health system based on quality care.
He said the focus is on providing efficient and effective primary health care characterised by increased community participation; development of a modern health information and communication infrastructure; the integration of services for a seamless referral of patients between the primary and secondary levels; provision of adequate diagnostic, laboratory and pharmaceutical services; renewal of the ‘health team’ approach to health care delivery; and the necessary logistic and administrative support.
The goal, he said, is to bring health services closer to the community. The Minister informed that in the current financial year, the Government has initiated the establishment of four centres of excellence at the primary care level, one in each of the four regional health authorities, through $100 million in funding from the National Health Fund (NHF).
“The focus reflects the changes in Jamaica’s morbidity profile over the last 50 years from a preponderance of communicable diseases to non-communicable diseases; economic factors whereby the unit cost for treatment at the primary level is significantly lower than at the secondary or hospital level; and the available epidemiological evidence. This administration’s commits to providing universal access at the primary level of care,” he stated.
The conference was hosted by the Ministry in collaboration with PAHO, the Caribbean Health Research Council, and Population Services International (Caribbean), under the theme: ‘Health Systems Strengthening and HIV/AIDS’.
It sought to share the findings of health studies by the Ministry and other institutions and individuals in the island; stimulate greater interest in health research particularly in the public sector; and bring cohesiveness to health research by facilitating discussion and presentations that focus on national and regional health research priorities, partnerships and funding.