“Health is not valued till sickness comes”-Thomas Fuller

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), US $6.5 trillion dollars is spent globally on health care. The WHO states that total expenditure per person per year stands at US $948. The issue of health care financing is of concern to all governments however, the problem is of more concern to poorer nations due to budgetary constraints. According to WHO, many countries need to use available funds more efficiently and raise more funds from domestic sources, but these measures would be insufficient to fill the current gap in the poorest countries. The WHO adds that only an increased and predictable flow of donor funding will allow poorer countries to meet basic health needs in the short to medium term. It is critical that we establish partnerships, whether public, private or government to government in order to tackle the issues associated with the health care sector. The proposed Chinese government support of US $46 million to build a 220 bed hospital is a prime example of donor funding regarding health care financing. Minister of Health, Dr. Christopher Tufton made this announcement in a wide ranging “Vision for Health Care” speech to delegates who attended the Jamaica55 Diaspora Conference. The minister said that the health care facility will be built on lands at the Cornwall Regional Hospital and that when completed the hospital will cater to children 13-18 years old. According to the Minister the Chinese government will provide some of the equipment to be used in the medical facility, but the government will have to source the remainder. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was recently signed between the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the Ministry of Health. UNOPS, the operational arm of the United Nations, will be required to review technical documents, preliminary designs/drawings and medical equipment for the proposed Western Regional Children’s Hospital. UNOPS will also evaluate and establish the required actions to strengthen the infrastructure for Spanish Town, May Pen, St. Ann’s Bay Regional and Mandeville Hospitals as well as assess the feasibility for the reorganization of the Kingston Public Hospital.

Reform Agenda for Public Health Care

The Ministry of Health has embarked on a Reform Agenda for Public Health to improve health care for Jamaicans. The Minister of Health stated that this health reform agenda will include: A 10 year strategic plan which is being supported by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The Minister announced that an assessment of the four regional health authorities will be conducted by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). He also mentioned that a National Health Insurance Scheme is to be implemented during the next financial year on a phased basis.

Partnership with the Diaspora

The Minister lamented the continued shortage of specialist nurses in the public health care system. Dr. Tufton made an appeal to members of the diaspora with the expertise, especially in nephrology and oncology. Minister Tufton in his speech informed the delegates at the conference that the government was seeking to forge a partnership with jurisdictions outside of Jamaica to give Jamaican nurses clinical experience. The minister stated that given the limitation of hospital space, nurses trained locally would be able to go to the United Kingdom and Cuba to complete that aspect of their training. The Minister went on to add that there are currently eight categories of specialist nurses which are understaffed in the public health care sector.

Dr. Tufton in his overview of Jamaica’s health care system referred to five areas regarding the Vision for Health Care. These are:

A healthy and balanced diet and physical activity, regular screening and check- ups, primary and secondary care infrastructure, health financing and health personnel. Minister Tufton told the delegates attending the Jamaica Conference Centre housed Jamaica55 Diaspora forum that the Jamaican government was seeking to create a Centre of Excellence at the St. Joseph’s Hospital to offer specialized care in Oncology and Nephrology. Dr. Tufton stated that some 150, 000 Jamaicans require some form of dialysis and that there was a waiting list for this service in the public health care system.

It bares thought that in order to achieve sustainable development a society must have a healthy workforce in which access to affordable medical care is within reach of the most vulnerable in the society. A holistic health care policy must take into consideration the United Nations, Sustainable Developments Goals (SDG’s). Goal #3 speaks to ensuring healthy lives and the promotion of well-being for all at all ages which is essential to sustainable growth. In order for Jamaica to realize fully this goal there must be an unhindered path to primary health care facilities such as a hospital in keeping with the SDG’s.

Minister Tufton continues to urge the Jamaican Diaspora community to get involved in the Ministry of Health’s Adopt A Clinic programme. According to Minister Tufton, there are 100 clinics waiting to be adopted, of this number, thirty (30) proposals have already expressed an interest in adopting a clinic.

Since this announcement the Victoria Mutual Building Society (VMBS) has come on board and has adopted 15 clinics. The Minister ended his presentation by reminding the delegates that all donations to the health sector should be done through the “Health for Life and Wellness Foundation”, an affiliate of the Ministry of Health. In the words of Hippocrates, “healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.”

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.




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