Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Editorial | Get on with it, UHWI

Published:Friday | January 6, 2017 | 1:00 AM

As vitally important as each institution is, the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) is not just any other member of Jamaica's health-care system. It is the island's premier teaching hospital, and critically, an institution of the University of the West Indies (UWI), whose medical faculty is headquartered at the university's campus at Mona.

As such, the UHWI operates under a special act of Parliament, and its board of governors is jointly chosen by the Jamaican government and the UWI. In other words, the university plays a crucial rule in the hospital's direction and management. It is in the university's interest that the hospital is not only properly managed, but that its services are of the highest quality. If it were otherwise, it would compromise the ability to deliver the highest standard of education, the reputation of its students, and the universal accreditation with which they are met in most markets.

Happily, that has not happened and there is no immediate danger, insofar as we can tell, of that happening. But education institutions, as those who manage the UWI are well aware, can't merely rest on their laurels. That is why we are concerned about this week's disclosure by the UHWI's chairman, Jimmy Moss-Solomon, of the suspension of major surgeries at the hospital because of a shortage of criticalcare nurses and an insufficiency of critical-care beds.

The matter of the nurses is apparently the major about which Jamaican health-care institutions have complained for years. Jamaica, we are often told, can't train them fast enough, for as soon as they are trained and certified, they are recruited to advanced countries offering salaries that can't be matched here.

"We have doubled training of specialist nurses in 2016, and before the courses are completed, 50 per cent of them are already employed," Mr Moss-Solomon on Wednesday told a meeting of the Lions Club of Kingston. "It doesn't matter how many millions of dollars we care to put on a bonding system, (employers in) the USA, Canada, and the UK, to a lesser extent, are quite happy to pay it off."

 

Seeking opportunities abroad

 

We have no problem with the nurses or other health professionals, or anyone else for that matter, having met their financial/bonding obligations, finding better-paying jobs abroad to improve the quality of their lives. That is part of the price the Jamaican economy pays for decades of bad and/or inappropriate policies, which ought to be an incentive for us to now get it right.

Yet we don't accept that there are no solutions to this problem, even if interim ones for the short term. Indeed, Mr Moss-Solomon is a smart man, with achievements in the private sector. His fellow governors are distinguished professionals in their various fields.

Importantly, the UWI is this region's premier institution of learning; an academy of ideas and thought, capable, we expect, of dealing with more than abstract issues. Its faculty and students are supposed to be able to find solutions to real-life problems.

Having sufficient specialist nurses and intensive-care beds for its premier teaching hospitals ought not be a problem beyond the abilities of the academics at the UWI and the governors at that hospital. Now, they just have to put on their thinking caps.