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Fabia Lamm pushes to deliver quality medical services

Published:Saturday | March 14, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Orantes Moore photo Regional director for the North East Regional Health Authority, Fabia Lamm.

After almost one year working as regional director for the North East Regional Health Authority (NERHA), Fabia Lamm appears to have settled into her role as one of the leading health-care administrators in the island.

During an interview at her office in Ocho Rios last week, Lamm announced plans to upgrade eight health centres in St Mary and claimed the biggest threat facing the region (St Mary, St Ann and Portland) in 2015 is "the availability of pharmaceuticals, functional equipment and sundries".

Her staff on the ground, however, have other concerns. They include allegations of substandard maintenance work across the region and a belief that a disproportionate amount of St Mary's resources are distributed to Annotto Bay Hospital (ABH), while the smaller and underdeveloped facility at Port Maria (PMH) is frequently overlooked.

Lamm insists there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for the imbalance. She told Rural Xpress: "We have had difficulties attracting resources, especially clinical staff such as doctors, nurses, and technicians to PMH and right now, there are vacant consultant positions at the hospital that we can't fill.

"ABH is perceived as a more attractive option because of the Junction Road, so you can work there and still live and send your kids to school in Kingston. It's very difficult to do that from the hospitals in Port Maria or Port Antonio.

"Also, the team at ABH have a synergy that works. They know who to call to get the advocacy going, and how to get everything working to enhance their services."

Lamm, who was born in Great Pond, St Ann, describes herself as "country girl by nature" and after acquiring a post graduate diploma in education administration in 1996, spent the next 18 years working in management for the Urban Development Corporation.

She is a savvy player who has perfected the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable and knows how to balance a budget.

However, the path to the top is rarely trouble-free and as female manager with experience of both the private and public sectors, surely Lamm has faced challenges operating in environments dominated by males?

'It's not easy'

"It's not easy," she declared. "I've found you have to work four times harder than your male counterparts to get where you want. More is expected of you, and if and when you achieve your goals, there is the assertion or assumption that you got to that position for some reason other than your hard work (laughs)."

Lamm acknowledges that compared to the corporate world, the public sector can be "slow and bureaucratic" but believes these are infrastructural problems caused by population growth rather than a lazy and apathetic civil service.

She explains: "St Mary, for example, is the largest of the three parishes we work with and the only one with two hospitals. These facilities were built when the parish's population was around one third of what it is now, but although the population has grown significantly, the level of improvement to the infrastructure has not been parallel."

Balancing the need for a more robust infrastructure and better resources against a desire to deliver quality medical services with limited finances is an unenviable task, but Lamm has so far proved a competent director.

Looking ahead, she notes that NEHRA's focus over the next 12 months includes renovating buildings, converging resources and improving customer service.

Lamm said: "We are looking at how we can better interrelate with each other and the end user, and at the same time improve aesthetics such as our waiting areas, which I think is manageable and doable."