Speech

I wish to commend the leadership of the Ministry of Health:
– Permanent Secretary, Dr. Grace Allen-Young;
– Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester;
– Professor Peter Figueroa;
– Dr. Marion Bullock-Ducasse and all of her hard working staff at the emergency operations centre.
I also want to specially recognise the staff at Hospitals and Health Centres, and at the national Public Health Lab.
I extend my gratitude to our Public Health Inspectors and Nurses, Medical Technologists, Vector Control Workers, Health Educators, Support Staff and all categories of health workers.
I also wish to commend our regional and international partners, in particular, the Pan-American Health Organisation and the centres for disease control in Atlanta that assisted us in the testing of over seven hundred blood samples.
Also the health workers from Guyana and the Caribbean Epidemiological Research Centre (CAREC) for coming to Jamaica and working with us shoulder to shoulder to contain this outbreak.
I am also grateful for the response of the residents in the affected communities and for our community leaders and elected representatives who have been working with our health teams, as they carry out house to house surveys and vector control activities on the ground.
Jamaica has always been proud of its health status, which is comparable to that of developed countries. We have eradicated several communicable diseases.We have not experienced an outbreak of malaria in over forty years.
It is extremely important that the nation takes this outbreak seriously.
The 91 confirmed cases in this outbreak are all in a confined area or have links with these areas.
However, Jamaicans every where must be vigilant and must take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of malaria.
I am instructing all relevant sectors and agencies to carry out an extended islandwide sanitation and general clean-up of the environment.
I am, at the same time, appealing to all persons who have symptoms of malaria such as fever, chills, headaches, muscle pains and vomiting to visit the doctor or the nearest health facility.
If you have been interviewed or tested, follow the advice of the health team and, if you are still feeling ill, you must return to your doctor or health facility.
As you know, we have had to seek assistance to read the unusually high number of blood samples that we have at the national public health lab.
The modernisation of that lab has been ongoing for some time. I have instructed that the cabinet be updated on the progress of the modernisation at our first sitting in January, with a view to expediting the process.
The lessons that we have learnt from this experience will help us to inform the way forward for the health sector in Jamaica.
It also indicates how pivotal the health sector is to the economic, social and environmental development of this country.
We live in a world without borders. This poses new challenges in health care. But I remain confident that we have the best and most committed health workers in the world. They have proven time and again that we can rely on them to maintain and improve the health status of this country.
We need to give them our full support this time around, as they work to contain this disease.
May God bless you and may God bless Jamaica.