- As the Princess Margaret Hospital in Morant Bay, St. Thomas, celebrates 60 years of high quality client care delivery in 2015, the institution is being positioned to be a leader in the area of health tourism in Jamaica.
- The hospital’s location presents the ideal setting for this engagement, as it is situated on 26 acres of sloping land, overlooking the Caribbean Sea to the south and fringed by the Blue Mountains in the north, with the famed Bath Fountain a few miles to the east.
- The hospital was officially opened on Ash Wednesday, February 23, 1955 by Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret, and has a current staff enrollment of over 200 workers, serving clients from communities in St. Thomas, eastern Portland, and parts of St. Andrew.
As the Princess Margaret Hospital in Morant Bay, St. Thomas, celebrates 60 years of high quality client care delivery in 2015, the institution is being positioned to be a leader in the area of health tourism in Jamaica.
The hospital’s location presents the ideal setting for this engagement, as it is situated on 26 acres of sloping land, overlooking the Caribbean Sea to the south and fringed by the Blue Mountains in the north, with the famed Bath Fountain a few miles to the east.
Based on developments at the institution, Senior Medical Officer of 25 years, Dr. Cecil Batchelor, says it is poised for growth in the emerging health tourism market, and is of the view that this goal is within striking range.
“If we can modernize Princess Margaret effectively, then we should be able to lock into the things which should earn us some money and allow us to expand for the future” he states.
To this end, the Type C facility, which has a bed capacity of 129, and serves an average of 2,500 patients per month, is set to benefit from a major $200 million capital injection from the National Health Fund (NHF), to expand and improve the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department.
In addition, the administrative and medical records departments are being renovated; and dedicated isolation rooms established to adequately equip the hospital to properly attend to patients, who may be affected by new emerging diseases deemed to be highly contagious.
Other proposed improvements include: upgrading of the sewage treatment plant and renovation of the Dietary Department.
The hospital’s administration is also exploring the possibility of improving the living arrangements on the compound for staff, by expanding existing housing facilities. These include the staff residence, matron’s quarters and porters’ lodge, and is in a bid to attract more professionals to the parish.
The old mental health building is also currently being renovated for use as a daycare centre for the children of staff members, while a tuck shop will also be put in place, as well as a modern conference room.
Dr. Batchelor tells JIS News that the hospital’s administration has already undertaken several initiatives, also designed to enhance service delivery.
He informs that the institution is among the few rural hospitals in Jamaica currently offering minimal access (keyhole) surgery.
Implementation of this service, he indicates, was initiated by the hospital, pointing out that funding for such an engagement is not usually provided for a Type C facility.
He explains that they sought and secured funding through donations, and established the facility which is now offered to the clients.
“As a result we now have an endoscopic service so we can do upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy and colonoscopy, among other minimal access procedures. Once again, we were the ones who went out and got donor groups to provide the equipment. Additionally, there is a gastroenterologist who comes in once a month so patients who need that kind of service need not go to Kingston anymore,” the SMO informs.
Improvements have also been undertaken in other areas such as: gynaecology, internal medicine, and paediatrics, with specialists visiting once per week to conduct clinics.
Dr. Batchelor anticipates even greater developments for Princess Margaret Hospital, including construction of a new operating theatre block boasting a proper waiting area for the patients, a lounge, and appropriate bathroom facilities.
He tells JIS News that the institution was a pioneer in administering day case or outpatient surgery in Jamaica, caused by dislocation resulting from Hurricane Gilbert, in 1988.
“After Hurricane Gilbert, we were reduced from 182 beds to 40; so patients who did (minor procedures) would be sent home on the same day. By so doing we have been able to cut the number of patients (resident) on the wards (only) requiring (these procedures) by 80 per cent,” he states.
Dr. Batchelor says so successful has this undertaking been that “we have patients who are waiting in the corridor for their surgeries; hence the need to improve the operating theatre facilities significantly.”
According to the SMO, when the operating suite is expanded, the laboratory will also be extended, and the x-ray department improved to include mammography and ultrasound services.
The entire property was recently fenced and the institution was the recipient of the first state of the art x-ray machine to come into Jamaica in recent times at a cost of over $20 million.
“The ultimate aim is for the hospital to be upgraded to a Type B designation. (Although) we are a Type C facility, for me it is more like a B minus because we operate at a very high level” he says.
Princess Margaret has a legacy of ‘firsts’, many of which are attributed to the foresight of Dr. R.G. Lampart who served as Senior Medical Officer in the 1960s and the 1970s.
In one of the first examples of primary and secondary health care integration in Jamaica, the ante-natal clinic for Morant Bay was transferred at Dr. Lampart’s request from a dilapidated structure to the hospital.
Additionally, district midwives who were previously excluded from hospital practice, were successfully incorporated into the institution’s staff cadre, another milestone for Jamaica’s health sector, which was eventually was adopted as the national standard.
Other milestone achievements at Princess Margret include the institution being the first rural hospital to: offer laparoscopic tubal ligation service; admit and treat psychiatric patients on its general medical wards to help to remove the stigma associated with mental illness; and institute a foreign medical students electives programme where medical students from the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Canada and the United States have spent between four and eight weeks learning about disease conditions in Jamaica.
Approximately 300 students have benefitted from the transfer of knowledge.
Although not the pioneer, Princess Margaret is proud to be the second hospital in the island to have an Assistant Nurses Training School.
After being closed for some 23 years, from 1976 and 1999, the facility was reopened, and remains in operation, and currently trains enrolled assistant nurses, many of who are making valuable contributions to health care delivery in medical institutions islandwide and overseas.
Princess Margaret Hospital was constructed to replace the Morant Bay Hospital, which was destroyed by Hurricane Charlie in 1951.
The hospital was officially opened on Ash Wednesday, February 23, 1955 by Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret, and has a current staff enrollment of over 200 workers, serving clients from communities in St. Thomas, eastern Portland, and parts of St. Andrew.