Urgent action needed to reform health sector - JMDA
Dr Alfred Dawes, president, Jamaica Medical Doctors Association (JMDA), is calling on the Ministry of Health to give the public more information on the recently concluded audit of the health sector and to immediately start investigations into how the increased budgetary allocations to the regions are being spent.
"The sector needs revolutionary short and medium to long-term plans to deal with the chronic shortages and mismanagement. The minister of health should set up a committee to include stakeholder groups to monitor the reform of the health sector and report to the public on the progress of the reforms stemming from this audit. We understand that releasing the full details of the report might not be prudent, but much more information can be given to the public," Dawes noted.
"We do not believe naming names will add anything except stigmatisation and prejudices against the health care facilities and the very workers who have struggled to deliver care under the most challenging of conditions. However, there are details in the full report that will shed more light on the true state of the health sector."
He said JMDA's release of information, months ago, on the state of the health sector, and its call for this audit, was to educate the public and other stakeholders.
He added, "We would have preferred an independent audit of the health sector, but now that this audit has been done, the Government has the responsibility to make urgent reforms of the sector for the betterment of patients and staff."
Ministry implementing pharmacy management information system
As part of efforts to address the issues of shortage of pharmaceuticals at some public- health facilities, Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson said the ministry has started the implementation of a pharmacy management information system, which will help to track items, availability, and expiration date, as well as order levels.
He said this will increase efficiency of the management of drugs throughout the public-health sector.
"This system will afford us a national picture and allow for the movement of drugs from one facility to another, as required or the movement of drugs to places where utilisation is greater, thereby reducing wastage and spoilage," Dr Ferguson said.
He pointed out that the Ministry of Health will be spending $8 billion to procure pharmaceuticals, sundries and reagents for the public-health sector. Contracts were signed recently with 47 suppliers to increase the supply of pharmaceuticals and sundries, by $3.8 billion, to the public-health sector. In addition, three contracts, valuing US$1,487,580.18, to suppliers for the University Hospital of the West Indies, were signed in July.
"This is an initial procurement as we expect to spend close to $6 billion on pharmaceuticals and sundries, and $2 billion on reagents, in this financial year alone," Dr Ferguson said.
PAHO mission to assist with pharmaceutical supply management
A technical team from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) will be in the island, September 15-18, to assist the Ministry of Health with the reengineering of the national warehouse and strengthening of the procurement and supply management system at the National Health Fund (NHF).
The NHF assumed responsibilities for the procurement, warehousing and distribution of pharmaceuticals and medical sundries for the government's health facilities throughout the island in 2011.
Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson said, "the purpose of the mission is to assist the NHF with reviewing the procurement and supply management system and the warehouse reengineering proposal against standards, and make concrete recommendations for improvement to the warehouse."
This is expected to contribute to improving the quality in medicines and other medical supplies and reducing inefficiencies.
NHF, through the health ministry, requested technical support from PAHO in an effort to strengthen the supply chain system.
More nurses to boost health-care delivery
The Ministry of Health has announced plans to boost the quality of care in the public- health system by increasing the number of nurses, patient-care assistants and community health aides.
Approximately 213 nurses are to be hired on an incremental basis, 150 patient-care assistants and 200 community health aides. 181 medical interns and 106 senior house officers have also been assigned to locations across the island.
Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson said this is being done to alleviate concerns and "improve the comfort (of patients) during hospital stays, such as with regular turning, feeding, dressing and changing."
The ministry has also engaged a committee to examine a draft document for the Customer Service Policy. The committee includes regional health authorities, Combined Disabilities Association, Council for Professions Supplementary to Medicine and Registrar General's Department.
"We plan to have consultations with various groups, including staff and members of the public, once we have strengthened the draft document," he said.
$250 million to improve medical staff residential facilities & staff/patient bathrooms
The Ministry of Health is embarking on a $250-million project to repair residential facilities for medical staff across the island, as well as patient and staff bathrooms at hospitals and health centres.
A review of the various facilities has already been carried out and includes those at the National Chest, Spanish Town, Princess Margaret, Port Antonio, Annotto Bay, St. Ann's Bay, Noel Holmes, Savanna-la-mar, Black River, Mandeville, May Pen and Cornwall Regional hospitals as well as staff residence at Allerdyce and Flamingo.
"These facilities will be renovated this fiscal year at an estimated cost of $250 million. The bills of quantity have been completed and we hope to complete the procurement of contractors within this calendar year," said Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson.
The minister has asked that the management of the regional health authorities prioritise the project.