Death spurs demand for health-policy review
Anastasia Cunningham, Senior Gleaner Writer
The death of one of their own has put youth leaders across Jamaica in a militant mood. They are now calling for the Government to take a serious look at the health sector and review the no-user-fee policy.
If their calls go unanswered, they promise that the youths that make up 53.8 per cent of the population will take decisive action.
"Today marks the dawning of a new day. We will stand up, we will speak out, our recommendations must be considered," declared Ryan Small, chairman of the National Youth Council of Jamaica.
On March 12, youth advocate Jevine Williamson died during C-section surgery at the Spanish Town Hospital in St Catherine. She was reportedly given general anaesthesia and left unattended because the sole caregiver had to attend to another situation. By the time someone returned to her aid, Williamson was suffering complications and efforts to resuscitate her failed. They, however, managed to save the baby.
The youths said a senior medical officer at the hospital told them the facility's policy was that pregnant women needing surgery to facilitate the birth of their child were to be given epidural anaesthesia, which results in a loss of sensation in the particular area. However, due to an unavailability of the drug, patients were given general anaesthesia, which results in a state of unconsciousness and loss of protective reflexes.
Small claimed investigations revealed that Williamson was not informed of this. "She was not given a choice, she was just given the general anaesthesia without her knowledge," he said.
Reports of other deaths
"Something must be done about our health-care system. This free health care does not make any sense because it is not working. All it does is put pressure on a system that was already suffering from severe challenges," he argued.
"We are calling on the Government to review the no-user-fee system as it raises some fundamental issues, such as lack of resources … ."
Losing Williamson was a strong blow to the youth movement. The 22-year-old is remembered as the backbone of the Portmore Youth Council. She was the leader of the Portmore Young Women's Mentorship and Support Group, as well as member of the Jamaica United Nations Population Fund, National Youth Service Youth Club and the Silverstone Police Youth Club.
Last night, the Ministry of Health told The Gleaner it would be looking into the incident before responding to the concerns of the youth leaders today.