I take this opportunity to congratulate the nation’s nurses for the tremendous work that they have been doing throughout the years to assist in the health care of the people of Jamaica. Despite the challenges, we know that we all have to stand together and play our part in providing the best health for the people of Jamaica. Today, we celebrate with you another year and another observance of International Nurses Day under the theme “Delivering Quality, Serving Communities: Nurses Leading Chronic Care”. This underscores what we already know and that is that nurses have continuously been at the forefront of health care in Jamaica and have consistently delivered quality and caring service to our citizens.

This year, the Ministry of Health is focused on the renewal of primary health care and nurses will play a pivotal role in this thrust. We are currently strategizing to boost primary health care services by implementing several initiatives aimed at improving the Human Resource needs at the PHC level. Nursing is one such critical group of professionals on which we plan to place focus. In order for us to achieve our objectives, we recognize that we have to have the right staff with the requisite skills in place to provide support to the services that we offer.

We plan to make quality health care more accessible at the community level by ensuring that we have the infrastructure and staff in place to accommodate this. Our nurses will help to make this a huge success.

Our focus at the community level is not coincidental. We want to ensure that persons can access the care they need in their community as part of our thrust to make health care more available to all. You can help us to reach those in the rural areas who would not be able to travel far distances to seek care for a number of reasons and would perhaps opt to stay at home instead. Your intervention at the community level can be the difference between a healthy and productive family and one that is ailing. This intervention will have positive repercussions for the community as well as the country’s productivity. We intend to systematically improve the health of Jamaicans and this is just one of the significant ways in which as nurses you can help us to do that. I am pleased that you have demonstrated that you also have this vision and understand the importance of health care at the community level.

Increased community intervention and education are also needed if we are to be victorious in the battle against chronic diseases. We are very concerned and with reason as chronic diseases are among the major health problems worldwide, in the Caribbean and in Jamaica. In 2005, 63% of deaths worldwide were as a result of Chronic Non-communicable Diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

According to the World Health Organization over 35 million people die each year due to these illnesses. This according to the WHO, is double the number of persons who die from all infectious diseases and maternal and perinatal conditions, combined. Nurses have a tremendous responsibility where managing and assisting with the holistic treatment of chronic diseases are concerned. Nurses have to be equipped to deal with all aspects of chronic care which does not only speak to the physical wellbeing of the patient. We have to win this war against chronic diseases and with our nurses on our team we know that we have a great chance on that battle field.

Our challenges are great especially in this time of declining budgets. This is a time where we all have to work together for the betterment of our country. Without partnerships particularly in the field of health care, the system would not function optimally. We all therefore have to play our part and work together to achieve our goals including our international obligations under the Millennium Development Goals and our local objective in Vision 2030 Jamaica to make Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business. Nurses, your role in meeting these objectives is very important. We cannot do it without you as you are an integral part of the team.

Let us give thanks for being able to observe another year which marks the continued dedication of our nurses to health care in Jamaica. Today, we salute all nurses as we recognize your achievements and the important role you play in the delivery of health care to our population. I wish you all the best today and hope that you will find success in all your endeavours.

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