Complaining a national pastime
We are a nation of complainers. Complaining and criticising has become a national pastime. We complain without informing ourselves, without analysing what we have in front of us; we complain without any knowledge of what happens elsewhere.
We bash Jamaica without even thinking that the mere fact that we can complain, that we can criticise, and that we can speak openly, is an indication that we are living in a country where our rights have been fought for, and now we are secure in freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the full suite of human rights that are afforded persons in the most advanced countries.
The very fact that we have a health system is an indication of our advancement as a country. The fact is that we have one of the most advanced health systems in the world. Our doctors and nurses are among the best. The quality of our research is world-class. We have done sophisticated work in fertility management and the treatment of communicable diseases.
Our training of health professionals has withstood years of scrutiny, and yet we have managed to maintain the high quality where our nurses and technicians are sought after internationally.
Our health-care professionals have organised themselves in such a way as to facilitate growth and access to cutting-edge knowledge and techniques, and to push for the development of each professional group, and for improved working conditions and remuneration.
HIGHLIGHTING THE NEGATIVES
Our public-health system has been modelled on the best and far exceeds that of many developing countries. All Jamaicans, technically, have access to health care, and the rules that govern the delivery of health care, nationally, are patterned after the best in the world.
We don't, however, talk about these things. Instead, we prefer to focus on the things that are wrong.
Our new minister of health now has a hard task before him. What he faces is really no different from what is being faced by health-care systems in even the most developed countries. That is how to provide high-quality care that is affordable for individuals and for the national budget.
What we lack are the resources to replace ageing equipment and to upgrade the infrastructure. What we need is for practical and unemotional decisions to be made about the way in which we should finance the health sector.
One thing that is sure is the fact that, whenever political decisions are given primacy in the provision of health care, sound practical decisions often go out the window. This is the main problem that we face here in Jamaica.
We have to come to the understanding that there are some services that must be provided by government. Health, education and security are the ones most usually cited. Every political party needs to commit to depoliticising these services, and to enter into a pact to adopt the most workable and effective policies and practices for the good of the nation.
The will to make the right decisions must be bolstered by the quality of management that is brought to the sector. Health-care management is a very specific skill. To carry it out effectively requires a broad knowledge and understanding of the intricacies of the service.
KEEP PERSONNEL INFORMED
Personnel on hospital boards, as well as hospital management personnel, have to be continuously trained so that they can keep abreast of events in the sector and carry out preventive actions.
The selection of management personnel and board members also has to be informed by the complexity of what they are required to do. Great attention has to be paid to procurement and the quality of personnel engaged to provide hospital services. Systems for continuous evaluation and two-way communication must be put in place and continuously monitored.
It is not enough to say that there is no money, or to engage in our favourite pastime of finding scapegoats for everything that goes wrong. You see, when we find a scapegoat, it lets us off the hook. It is the same old story of finding someone to blame, which is a lot easier than fixing what is wrong with the system, and taking the hard decisions that must be taken to gain the advantage of improvement.
The situation that we face is one in which we all have to keep our heads and turn our attention to how these problems can be solved by the participation of government, the public, and employees in the sector.
This is a time for dialogue, not blame casting. As a nation, we all have to come to the table with a commitment to focus on taking responsibility and carrying out the best actions in the interest of improving the health service.