Mr. Speaker, health, as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is not only the absence of disease and infirmity, but a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.
It is against this background, that I am tabling today four Ministry Papers that reflect the progress of this Administration’s vision and strategic and operational direction for public health, including a focus on wellness.
Mr. Speaker, key dimensions of the wellness approach include not only the physical, mental, and social, but also the emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, vocational, and spiritual.
This focus on wellness is captured in the new name for the Ministry, one I am proud to officially announce today: the Ministry of Health and Wellness – as recently sanctioned by Prime Minister the Most Honourable Andrew Holness.
Later in this presentation, I will elaborate on a Wellness Agenda for Jamaica, reflecting the holistic approach necessary for Jamaicans to live longer, more productive, and better quality lives.
Mr. Speaker, I am tabling the four Ministry papers to provide greater details and clarity on the way forward for public health and wellness. These are:
- The 10-year Strategic Plan for the Ministry;
- A Green Paper on the proposal for a National Health Insurance Plan (NHIP);
- A major Capital Expenditure Plan for the next five years; and
- The latest Vitals, a publication of the Ministry that this year focuses on child and adolescent health.
But firstly, what is the current state of public health in Jamaica?
Mr. Speaker, in 2018 we had 2,879,288 visits to public health facilities compared to 2,517,330 in 2017.
In 2018, there were 1,651,637 visits to our health centres and 1,227,651 visits to public hospitals.
We had 187,801 admissions for inpatient care, conducted 40,477 operations, and assisted in the delivery of 32,890 babies. We provided 380,164 diagnostic imaging services (including X-Rays, CT scans and MRIs), and did 8,356,990 laboratory tests.
These services were provided by the hard-working team serving the public health system numbering 14,803. A big thank you to them on behalf of the people of Jamaica.
Mr. Speaker, the public health system is, indeed, not without its challenges, which can impair its capacity to respond to present-day realities. These realities include a demographic and epidemiological transition, with an ageing population and the double burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
One in three (1 in 3) persons now have at least one chronic disease, and the prevalence of comorbid (co-occurring) conditions among those with a chronic illness has also increased.
The provision of public health care is also challenged by a limping infrastructure, with no major hospital expansion or new development in 20 years, and limited maintenance of the facilities we currently use, leading to constant downtime.
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