RURAL EXPRESS - St Thomas Infirmary ward finally opens
Jolyn Bryan, Gleaner Writer
The St Thomas Infirmary has received a major boost following the long-awaited opening of the new male ward on the compound.
The multimillion dollar facility, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), at a cost of $19.6 million, was completed in 2011, but was not available for use due to issues stemming from the lack of a proper sewage system.
Plans for an absorption pit had to be shelved because of the proximity of the infirmary to domestic wells in Springfield. A health department-approved system was recently completed by the St Thomas Parish Council with assistance from the CHASE Fund, paving the way for the opening of the ward.
The ward, which boasts state-of-the-art furnished facilities, double and single rooms, as well as a reception area, is able to house 40 persons. Nurse Taniesha Colquhoun, matron of the infirmary, was pleased that the building was finally ready to open its doors. She explained that the infirmary had been at capacity with 76 residents, but would now be able to offer care to other individuals who are qualified as indigent by the Poor Relief Department of the Parish Council.
Previously, several persons, mostly males, who qualified as 'social cases' had to be housed at the Princess Margaret Hospital on the integrated ward, alongside patients who needed long-term care. The cost of room and board for these indigent persons fell to the hospital as well as the funerary costs, in the event that they died without being claimed by their families. It is hoped that the burden on the hospital will now be lightened.
MORE TO BE DONE
Noel Arscott, minister of Local Government and Community Development, while congratulating the workers of the infirmary, pointed out that more needed to be done for the elderly and indigent in the parish and across the country. Speaking at a short ceremony to mark the ward's official opening, Minister Arscott highlighted several initiatives to be undertaken by the Government, including refurbishing of buildings to be used as drop-off centres, transitional housing for the indigent, and improvement of infirmaries in several parishes, including St Elizabeth, Manchester, Portland, St James and Clarendon.
However, he called for personal and social responsibility, decrying the abandonment of family members for physical and mental issues which made them difficult to care for.
"We need to become a Jamaican family again, with personal responsibility. We cannot complete the Ministry's mandate if we do not tackle the underlying problems," he said.