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The National Health Fund (NHF) has approved funding for the construction of a perimeter fence at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Morant Bay, St. Thomas to increase security at the facility.
Health Minister, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, making the announcement yesterday (December 3) following a tour of the facility, said that the NHF will be sending a “team of experts out here right away to look at how and where you fence and more importantly, whether or not they should include surveillance cameras (around the compound) so that the people at this institution can feel safe in the discharge of their duties.”
The fencing of the hospital, estimated to cost $11.5 million, has become necessary due to an incident on July 31 this year, where gunmen invaded the property. The Minister visited the hospital on the day of the incident and met with the staff and patients.
Other measures being undertaken to improve security at the facility, include the grilling of all entrances to the building and the installation of a buzzer system.

Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer (right) listens intently as Chief Medical Officer of the Princess Margaret Hospital in Morant Bay, St. Thomas, Dr. Cecil Batchelor (second right) explains the use of the chemistry analyser, located in the hospital’s laboratory, during a tour of the facility on Thursday, December 3. Also on the tour (from left) are: His Worship the Mayor of Morant Bay, Councillor Hanif Brown and Minister of Energy and Mining, and Member of Parliament for Western St. Thomas, Hon. James Robertson.

In the meantime, the Health Minister praised the staff of the hospital for doing a phenomenal job in providing quality health care under very trying circumstances and despite the “compelling needs” in terms of equipment and resources.
“I am proud of the staff at the Princess Margaret Hospital (as)…your clients, the patients speak glowingly of the patient care here,” he said.
He lauded the nurses, in particular, noting that it is refreshing to visit an institution “where I’m not getting a whole mountain of complaints,” and encouraged the staff to keep up the good work.
Opposition Spokesperson on Health, and Member of Parliament for Eastern St. Thomas, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, also joined in congratulating the hospital’s staff “for doing an excellent job” and lauded the Ministry for its efforts to improve the facility.
“I know for them (hospital staff), security has been a long-standing concern. As it relates to the perimeter wall…the question of housing for health workers has been on the agenda…and I know there have been problems relative to the diagnostic operations in the X-ray (department). Having visited and having seen, I am convinced that the Ministry and the Minister and his team are making a significant effort,” he said.

Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, (right) listens to a patient on the male ward of the Princess Margaret Hospital in Morant Bay, St. Thomas, during a tour of the facility on Thursday, December 3. Beside the Minister is Opposition Spokesperson on Health, and Member of Parliament for Eastern St. Thomas, Dr. Fenton Ferguson. Looking on at left is Minister of Energy and Mining, and Member of Parliament for Western St. Thomas, Hon. James Robertson.

He acknowledged that while the Government could not, at this time, afford to upgrade the hospital to a Type B facility, the expansion of some of the speciality services, particularly in the area of ophthalmology, would be welcome.
He suggested that greater use could be made of the “first class” eye-care clinic with an additional day of operation added per week. The clinic is currently open once a week.
For his part, Minister of Energy and Mining, and Member of Parliament for Western St. Thomas, Hon. James Robertson, gave a commitment to see to the repair of the facility’s solar water heater system by Christmas.
Matron of the Hospital, Ms. Patricia Gordon-Smith, told JIS News that she was satisfied with the visit and was looking forward to the improvements to be made at the institution. She said she was pleased that the staff’s work is appreciated.
Serving the parish of St. Thomas as well as sections of Portland and St. Andrew, the Princess Margaret Hospital is a Type C facility, which was officially opened in 1955 after Hurricane Charlie destroyed the Morant Bay Hospital in 1951.
Others in the touring party were Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Jean Dixon; Parliamentary Secretary, Senator Aundre Franklyn; His Worship the Mayor of Morant Bay, Councillor Hanif Brown; and Chairman of the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA) Mr. Lyttleton Shirley.

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