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On achieving excellence

FIFTY THREE persons who completed the Ministry of Health (MOH) United States (US) Southern Command First Medical Responder Course and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) basic training graduated yesterday.

The five-week course, which had had them in the classroom for six days per week is a part of the MOH's islandwide emergency medical response programme. Twenty eight persons went to the Medical First Responder Course and 25 to EMT.

The ceremony was held at Le Meridien Jamaica Pegasus hotel.

Health Minister John Junor said that the group came from the government voluntary services. In the next phase, the training will be intensified. Over $150 million have been invested.

During the programme, medical experts provided by the US Embassy taught the graduates, who would be first on the scene during an emergency how to give emergency medical care, carry out patient assessments and initiate care until a doctor or nurse arrives. Persons from Jamaica and the Bahamas were in this batch.

"You must seek to employ the knowledge you've gained productively," Minister Junor told the graduates.

Valedictorian Deryck Johnson, a Bahamian basic course graduate said that the group would remain focused to take on the task at hand.

"We knew we were in for a challenge," he said, "there were times when classmates had to leave, but they always made it back in time for class, this is a testimony of our determination to succeed. The EMS is all about time," he added, "the less time it takes to get to a patient, the less chances there are for survival. With the love and ability we have to be the best EMT, we can undoubtedly make a difference in someone else's life."

Special awards went to Julia Campbell, an administrator at the MOH and a First Responder graduate and EMT Kate Williams-Ashman of the Black River Hospital for highest academic marks and most improved to EMT Noel Recass and Medical Responder Dean Gilleng.

"Thanks to the knowledge that you just acquired during the intense hours of study, you are now fully qualified to respond to the needs of emergency victims," guest speaker US Ambassador Sue Cobb said, "the horrifying events of September 11 also reminds us of the critical importance of teamwork. Emergencies are not only produced by evil minds," she continued, "we cannot disregard the fact that you graduates may have to respond to human pain and suffering caused by the inevitable vicissitudes of nature."

She explained that the embassy has an assistance programme through the military liaison office whose primary focus is to provide assistance to civilians. The embassy has also donated medical supplies and equipment and in the spring of next year will build a medical clinic at Harbour View.

This is the first time for such a course in Jamaica and a follow-up course is scheduled for Ocho Rios between December 3 and 12. Additional courses are planned for the future with the US military liaison office at the US embassy co-ordinating the training cycles an identifying additional medical experts to conduct the courses.

The programme is supported by USAID and the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, and is geared at enhancing the quality of care of EMS programmes in the Caribbean.

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