EU spends J$86m to provide six ambulances for rural health-care facilities
Maternal health care in rural Jamaica received a significant boost recently with the official handover of six state-of-the-art ambulances to facilitate improved access to emergency prenatal and neonatal care.
The ambulances were purchased under the European Union-funded Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality (PROMAC), which is spearheaded by the Ministry of Health.
Speaking at the handover ceremony at the Clarendon Health Department, Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton said that the ambulances would fill a critical void, which has been partly caused by the number of inoperable ambulances currently in public health-care facilities.
"Ideally, ambulances should be used for emergency transfers either between facilities and for initial access to a facility. We now use them to transport non-urgent cases because our overall fleet, which primarily serves our secondary-care facilities, is wanting," said Tufton.
"Such is the reality of the tight fiscal framework in which we operate. I welcome the contribution of our bilateral partners, and in this particular case, the European Union. Their presence in Jamaica continues to assist with the development of our people and infrastructure," added Tufton.
The ambulances have been deployed to the Mandeville, St Jago Park, Annotto Bay and Savanna-la-Mar health centres, as well as the Chapelton and Alexandria community hospitals.
They are fully equipped to primarily transport emergency cases involving infant and maternal patients between primary health-care facilities and hospitals. It is anticipated that as a result of these ambulances and the continued work of PROMAC, there will be a trending decline in pregnancy-related deaths.
"The health of our women and newborns is of the utmost importance. While the fertility levels continuing to decline between 2015 and 2016, we are pleased to note a three per cent and a more than 15 per cent reduction in the reported numbers of stillbirths, neonatal deaths, and maternal deaths in 2016.
Manage high-risk pregnancy
"We anticipate further reductions in stillbirths and neonatal and maternal deaths through the work of PROMAC, which will strengthen institutional capacity to manage high-risk pregnancies," Tufton said.
Urging stakeholders to properly maintain the vehicles, Head of Delegation of the European Union, Malgorzata Wasilewska, emphasised the role of the ambulances for preservation of life.
"These ambulances, and, in fact, all the services provided under PROMAC, can make the difference between life and death for mother and child. It is entirely possible to drastically reduce the number of women dying in childbirth, but it takes commitment and all of us working together," said Wasilewska.
Also using the opportunity to acknowledge statistics revealing the correlation between poverty and increased risk of maternal deaths, Wasilewska indicated that the work of PROMAC would alleviate these disparities.
"PROMAC, through its holistic approach, is supporting efforts to create a health system that is fully responsive to women's reproductive health needs through the provision of high-quality, comprehensive, and readily accessible maternal and child-health services."
Thirty-six health workers were trained to use and operate the units, which are valued at €631,162 or approximately J$86 million.
PROMAC was launched to the tune of €22,000,000, or just over J$3 billion, in 2013 with the primary objective of addressing challenges related to maternal and child mortality in Jamaica.