Sat | Feb 24, 2018

Tufton gives go-ahead for Ja's first heart centre

Published:Wednesday | June 22, 2016 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
From left: Philip Armstrong, board chairman, South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA); Dr Christopher Tufton, minister of health; Dr Norman Dunn, medical doctor and Dr Dutris Bourne, regional technical director, SERHA, at the signing of the memorandum of understanding for the establishment of the Jamaica Children's Heart Centre yesterday.

Cardiac surgeries for children are expected to almost quadruple from 41 to 150 per year, following the signing of a memorandum of understanding for the establishment of Jamaica's first heart centre at the Bustamante Hospital for Children (BHC) yesterday.

"This means more children who are in need of these surgeries will be able to have them done," Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton said at the signing.

Emma Scanlan, chief executive officer for the Chain of Hope in the United Kingdom, said though the Jamaica Children's Heart Centre had been a long journey in procuring the necessary resources, she was eagerly anticipating the official opening of the facility.

"There is a major urgency for Jamaica to have its own continuous paediatric cardiac service for the children. The missions are a stopgap; they are not a long-term solution for Jamaica's problem with heart disease. More than 400 children are born every year with heart problems and close to two per cent suffer from rheumatic heart disease, and so Jamaica needs its own cardiac service," she told The Gleaner.

"We need to have Jamaicans treating Jamaicans. It will rise up the rest of the health care and will help other children in the future. Jamaica will have a unit that is not reliant on overseas teams coming; that needs to be something of the past," she continued.

"Jamaica has brilliant doctors and brilliant nurses. A lot of them are leaving the island, but we need to keep them. We need to build a service that Jamaica will be proud of."

Tufton expressed gratitude for what he said was well-needed intervention, but quickly pointed out that sustainability was most critical.

"Building a facility is critical, but the other critical part is sustaining, maintaining and ensuring that the facility works at optimal and efficient levels. Too often, I have seen in my limited time as minister in the public-health system fabulous initiatives being established, ribbon-cutting, equipment procured and the first time it breaks down, that's the end of what it was intended for. We have to get out of that," the minister said.

"We do engage some of the diagnostic providers in the public space where we are short, but it is ad hoc. It, therefore, does not give us the optimal return that we could get from it, and oftentimes waiting time in the public space is largely a function of persons waiting to get diagnostic support," he said.