Jamaicans in the Diaspora seems to be perennially concerned about the reported violent crime rate in Jamaica. While this may seem justified, it is ironic when one visits Jamaica one finds the general public going about their business, enjoying life, as if there’s really “no problem” on the island.
However, there’s a problem in Jamaica that is just as concerning as the reported crime rate. This problem relates to Jamaica’s healthcare system. Healthcare in Jamaica is one area that’s not keeping up with the strides the nation have accomplished since independence in 1962.
Medical facilities have outgrown its efficiency
The real problem with Jamaica’s healthcare isn’t a lack of competent doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. The main problem is the existing medical infrastructure has outgrown its efficiency to the expanding and aging population.
The demand for healthcare, especially at public health facilities, have far outgrown the ability of these facilities to provide the required services. At the root of the problem of the inefficiencies of the public health facilities is cost. Expansion of existing hospitals and clinics across the island is mega-expensive; not to mention the cost of building new facilities.
Health minister working tirelessly
The incumbent Minister of Health, Dr. Christopher Tufton, is working tirelessly to remedy the situation, but he and the government needs help, badly and quickly.
In rural Jamaica people travel long distances, often meeting transportation challenges, to see a medical professional. It isn’t unusual that the delay experienced in getting quick and urgent medical treatment results in death.
Just last week Dr. Tufton in a TV interview indicated the government is taking steps to upgrade the facilities at some rural clinics and hospitals. This is commendable, but because of cost challenges the upgrades will be limited. Moreover, new clinics are urgently needed in several rural parishes.
Patient must purchase her own hospitals supplies
An example of Jamaica’s health challenges is seen in the experience of a woman in Kingston. The woman injured her shoulder while working on her domestic job in St. Andrew. She needs surgery to repair torn ligaments in the shoulder. The surgery is estimated to cost J$240,000. Her employer has offered to help with the cost, However, this woman was also informed by the hospital in Kingston that she needs to take in medical supplies to the hospital related to the surgery. She received a statement from the hospital indicating the supplies will cost another $201,000 dollars. Now she is in a plight. She cannot work with the injured shoulder. Her employers are unable to help meet the extra cost for the supplies. She cannot find the funds elsewhere. So, what does she do?
This situation is experienced repeatedly in Jamaica,
In another recent example, a well-known Jamaican was hospitalized in the ICU unit of another Kingston hospital with a life -threatening infection. His family was told he need an urgent antibiotic to treat the infection, but the family was required to purchase this antibiotic at an external pharmacy for approximately J$200,000.
Fortunately, this family could afford to purchase the medication. If they could not, the family member would most likely have died from his infection.
Periodical medical teams not enough
Every year, medical teams from the Diaspora visit Jamaica bringing temporary care to patients across the island. This is also commendable, but when the medical team leaves the health problems reappears. The medicines these health team distributes can only last so long. Then the patients have challenges getting medication.
Jamaica’s healthcare challenges send an urgent call to the Diaspora for a structured, organized approach to assist in this critical matter. The rural areas need more health clinics; existing facilities needs more health equipment and medical supplies. Existing facilities also need structural repairs. The list seems nonending. This a huge task for the Diaspora. It’s a task that with effective leadership, and coordination can be accomplished. The government is in dire need of help to alleviate the pressures on the healthcare system.
Almost every Jamaican in the Diaspora have a relative living in Jamaica. The challenges of the healthcare system will affect these relatives in some way.
Calling on the Diaspora
The National Weekly calls on the Diaspora to utilize its available, relevant resources to meet Jamaica’s healthcare challenges. More than short-term medical missions are needed. Jamaica’s healthcare need sustained approach from the Diaspora to alleviate the problems.