News

The Jamaica Medical Doctors Association (JMDA) is sounding the alarm that a lack of proper maintenance of important medical equipment and machines in the government-run healthcare system is likely to seriously undermine the quality of care offered to patients.    

According to Dr. Marie Brown, 2nd Vice President of  the Association, less than one per cent (of the healthcare budget) is allocated to maintenance of equipment.

The May Pen Hospital, in Clarendon, is accepting only emergency cases as it’s overcrowded, and has run out of some critical medical supplies.

Hospitals in Manchester and St. Elizabeth are grappling with a similar problem.

Concern has been raised that newborns at the largest maternity facility in the English speaking Caribbean the Victoria Jubilee Hospital could face certain dangers due to a defective equipment in the delivery room.

This was among the findings of  an audit of  Regional Health Authorities released to the public yesterday.

The equipment is called a resuscitaire and is used during delivery procedures and is useful for clinical emergency and resuscitation.

More and more, nurses, doctors and technicians from overseas are visiting Jamaica to offer their services for free.

The latest visitors are from the American West Indian Medical Association (Amerimeds Association), who travelled to Jamaica in June for the fifth year, to do just that, providing much-needed services such as dental work, gynaecology, physical therapy, and general medical care.

 

Residents of St Catherine West Central community, Macca Tree, were one group of people that benefited.

 

Gynaecologist Dr Angella Kerr, who is a member of Amerimeds Association, said that the group is committed to giving help to Caribbean countries where they think there is a medical need.

 

“We understand that with the reduced resources, access to health care may not be so easy for some people, especially in some of the rural areas,” Dr Kerr said.

 

Having partnered with other groups in the island — Kiwanis Club and Rotary Club of Kingston — Dr Kerr said the association's aim is to improve the health, education and well-being of people in Caribbean communities.

 

Minister of Health and Member of Parliament for St Catherine West Central Dr Christopher Tufton said: “It's difficulty to serve all the needs of the community so we welcome the support by philanthropic groups like the American West Indian Medical Association. I am grateful to Ms Lorna Bryant, president of the American West Indian Medical Association, for her leadership that make this possible.”

On June 13 the group visited St Mary, offering the same medical services to residents there. The clinic, which started on June 8, ended on June 15. Dr Kerr said the response and turnout was both robust and overwhelming.

 

“The residents came out and the patients were really grateful for our assistance. We try to provide some of the medications they need, for some of the conditions identified at the time of treatment,” Dr Kerr said.

 

The team returned to America last month, following which they will decide on the country to which they will take their next mission. Dr Kerr noted that many of the members of the group are Jamaicans so they have a special place in their hearts for Jamaica, which has influenced the number of times they've visited.

 

“We've also felt that we have some understanding of the people, the health care system and the support from the Government that have encouraged us to come on,” Dr Kerr said.

 

The American West Indian Medical Association was founded in August, 2013 and the association has been donating to different countries, assembling fund-raisers and providing health education to those in need.

Western Bureau:

Calvin G. Brown, the outspoken former chairman of the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA), says lack of adequate funding and poor maintenance are to blame for the problems now plaguing Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay, St James.

"When the hospital was built and opened in 1974, it was built to have a comprehensive ventilation system (central air-condition system), bringing in fresh air and taking out stale air," said Brown. "That system broke down between the late '70s to early '80s, but part of it operated until the 1990s when the entire system died."

Brown said that, over the years, successive governments and ministers of health have spoken of the need to resuscitate the system, but he said the required funding was never provided.

"What they ended up doing was to utilise split units for the area that were so affected (areas with ventilation issues) ... the first, second and third floors," said Brown. "With all the goodwill in the world, the administrators of the hospital cannot do anymore than they are doing. The blame does not lie there, neither does it lie with the respective boards over the years."

Brown said the hospital requires the services of a highly skilled engineer to oversee the operation and maintenance of the various equipment, but according to him, that has not happened because the required maintenance budget is not in place.

"... The system that the hospital has in place does not take into consideration the salary that such a position demands, so you are not going to get a proper engineer to run the system," stated Brown. "Cornwall Regional Hospital is a Type A hospital and it required a Type A maintenance plan."

Brown also took serious issue with the recent decision to resuscitate the old ventilation system, which is now being blamed for the noxious fumes that have disrupted services at the hospital.

"You can't have a ventilation unit that has been out of service for nearly 30 years and just bring in people to clean it and then expect it to work properly, knowing it was out of use because of unresolved problems," argued Brown. "It should have been condemned and a new system put in place."

Brown revealed that when his administration was putting in the fourth- and fifth-floor operating theatres before his tenure with the WRHA ended in 2015, he was told by a consultant that they engaged that it was unwise to use the old ventilation system, knowing it had been out of service for so many years.

"When we asked them why we couldn't use the old system, they said, 'Unnu mad?'" said Brown. "We had to put in a brand new system to bring fresh air into those two new operating theatres."

 

Closing CRH Would Be Colossal Mistake

 

Former chairman of the Western Regional Health Authority, Calvin G. Brown, said that going forward, there needs to be a proper maintenance budget for CRH.

"You can't pick up J$100 million and say it is for maintenance of CRH because you have six operating theatres, you have a number of X-ray units, among other high-tech units, so J$100 million is neither here nor there," said Brown. "To be frank. J$100 million is just for the maintenance of the building. You have to take into consideration that you have to have a maintenance programme for the four elevators. When one X-ray unit breaks down, to get a replacement part is about US$4,000. It is not cheap to run a health system."

Brown further noted that, in light of the various issues now plaguing the health sector, the Government probably needs to revisit its fee-less policy.

"When the Government decided to make health free, they 'soaked up' (sabotaged) the system," said Brown. "Government needs to subsidise the health system, but it cannot be for free. Even in England the other day, England is telling their people that you are going to have to pay something for health. We have to revisit this free health care matter; health cannot be a political tool."

With regard to suggestions that CRH be closed until the problem is fixed, Brown said that, too, would be a colossal mistake.

"Talk about closing the hospital is rubbish. It is located in a part of Jamaica that needs to have a functional Type A hospital, even if it is not operating at full capacity. We are in the tourism belt, Montego Bay has an international airport, Montego Bay has a world-class cruise ship port. We have to do what it takes to keep it open," Brown said. "Falmouth has 90 beds and one operating theatre. Noel Holmes has 38 beds, no operating theatre. Savanna-la-Mar, 200 beds and one operating theatre. Those things have to be taken into consideration before you even think about closing CRH."