Labour of love expands community health centre
Tamara Bailey, Gleaner Writer
Bellefield, Manchester:With the gift of prescience, a willingness to make sacrifices and an unparalleled spirit of volunteerism, the residents of the Bellefield Community and adjoining areas are today enjoying the fruits of their labour with a newly erected treatment room at the Bellefield Health Centre.
The health centre began as a satellite to the Porus Health Centre and saw numerous persons utilising the services. However, the population grew tremendously and the need for a formal structure was evident.
In 1987, former member of parliament, Jon Junior, after having received land donated by a retired nurse, built the Type 1 Health Centre. This made services to the residents more convenient and referrals from the hospitals increased.
But with an 18.19 square-foot space used as treatment room for ulcers, bruises, and amputations, the health-care workers became overwhelmed and found it hard to operate efficiently in the grossly inadequate space.
It was the careful observation of retired Nurse Maureen Tomlinson, who once worked at the health centre that led to the initiation and coordination of preliminary works for the centre's transformation.
"In 2010, when the idea came to me, I visited Mr Stanhope Scott, who is the parish manager at the Manchester Health Department, but he said there were no funds and advised me to rally up the community members to see what can be done with the skill set available. I followed his advice, and in 2011, a committee called 'The friends of Bellefield Health Centre' was started," expressed Tomlinson.
The executive body of the committee, seeing the need for expedience, opened a bank account, began tag drives, conducted sales, hosted concerts and sought sponsorship from several entities.
With all the funds that had been raised from the various efforts, the groundbreaking for the expansion began in May 2012 and despite the many challenges, continued on to completion in September of this year.
"We had several challenges; one major one was the land tenure. As we started to do ground work, we were told by an individual that the land could not be used because of infringement and we were put on hold for approximately nine months before reaching a mutually beneficial agreement, so the work could progress," said Tomlinson.
The health centre, which currently serves the communities of Daveyton, Chantilly, Belair, Blue Mountain, Top Bellfield, Banana Ground, Cumberland, Coffee Grove, Mount Pleasant, Content, Hope Village, and Williamsfield, would have seen its expansion at a cost of $1.4 million but the spirit of volunteerism existing in the community only saw the committee spending approximately $700,000.
"We have moved from 18.19 sq ft to 137.24 sq ft without having to pay a single cent for labour. Work men came here every morning and they expected no compensation - even men outside of the community showed up for work and all I can say is that this was the power and will of God and a labour of love," expressed chairman of the committee, Eric Watt.
"We must thank our sponsors who came on board, whether with cash or kind; Picka Pepper Factory, Somerset Enterprise Ltd, Pam Pam's Restaurant, Mayor Brenda Ramsay, Michael James, Manchester Co-operative Credit Union, Pioneer Chocolate Ltd, Bird's Gas station, Faye Bell, Peter Bunting, and Big Rat Auto - they really played a big role," Tomlinson stated.
At the official opening of the treatment room, guest speaker and regional director of the Southern Regional Health Authority, Michael Bent, made a call for similar projects to be conducted in each community and parish as a means of development and progression for the nation and welfare of the people.
The members of the committee are hoping to build an entrance wall and install proper fencing with the help of sponsors.