Significant increase in visits to public health facilities last year
The Kingston Public Hospital
There were some 2.87 million visits to public health facilities in Jamaica in 2018, which compared to 2.5 million such visits in 2017.
In 2018, there were 1,651,637 visits to health centres, up from 1,223,782 the previous year. And there were 1,227,651 visits to public hospitals, including the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), last year, which compared to 1,293,330 visits a year earlier.
The figures were disclosed last week Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, during his contribution to the 2019-2020 Sectoral Debate, during which he announced a five-year $31 billion plan to upgrade the country’s creaking public health infrastructure.
“We had 187,801 admissions for 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,” Tufton shared.
And he commended the staff of public health facilities for the work they have done under trying circumstances. He noted that the services were provided by the hardworking team serving the public health system, including:
· 1,910 doctors;
· 4,051 nurses and midwives;
· 275 dental staff;
· 1,138 paramedical and allied health workers; and
· 7,429 administrative and support staff.
“Together, they make for a total staff complement of 14,803 in the public health system.
“To these men and women, you have my commendations for your continued and dedicated service under what, I know, are sometimes challenging conditions,” said Tufton.
Dr Christopher Tufton
He added that: “The public health system is, indeed, not without its challenges, which can impair its capacity to respond to present day realities. These realities include ademographic and epidemiological transition, with an ageing population and the double burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases.”
Meanwhile, Tufton told the House that there continues to be challenges with the migration of health workers, particularly nurses.
“This has affected our ability to adequately serve key areas of need, including the provision of human resources in remote areas of the country,” the minister lamented.
He revealed that in 2018, the public health system lost 537 nurses – 526 of them due to resignations.
“The fact is, we cannot prevent our nurses from seeking employment elsewhere. However, we can discourage it by offering better working conditions, training and, where necessary, recruiting to supplement our own local staff,” Tufton said.
He said the ministry will expand the Cuban nursing programme in the short-term, while looking to broker other bilateral arrangements with other countries, including India and the Philippines. This is to provide capacity-building support in critical areas. At the same time, the China and UK nurses’ training programmes is to be continued.
The health and wellness minister said the intention of the Government is to expand the benefits to nurses by giving them greater security of tenure, and expanding housing arrangements for them.
And he said there are also shortages of doctors in some specialist areas.