Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
HAGLEY GAP, St Thomas:
FAR REMOVED from the state-of-the art facilities and setting which dominate the emergency room at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in the United States, where she works as an emergency-room nurse, Vela Watson is impressed with operations at the Hagley Gap Health Centre and the health of clients who access the facility in rural St Thomas.
"I think it's a wonderful thing. Basically, when I came I was very impressed with the setup. It's well equipped. We have a pharmacy, waiting room, overflow waiting area, examination room, bathroom and everything," she shared with The Gleaner, during a visit on Wednesday. "People here are basically healthy, and what I like about this thing is that each patient has his/her record. Everything is on file going back to like 2008-2009," she continued.
Watson, whose parents are Jamaicans and who was born in England, is part of a visiting medical team led by her friend and colleague, Dr Sherieka Wright, who was born in Hagley Gap, and she proudly affirms her Jamaican heritage.
"My parents were born here, I was born in England, but I 'm strictly yardie and I lived in St Ann for sometime in the Ocho Rios area, so this is very much familiar to me. It's rural, but overall I think these people really take good care of themselves, and they do good follow-up. You could tell by their charts that they come back all the time when they are supposed to do their refills," noted.
"When there are no doctors, the two LPNs (licensed practical nurses) basically run the show, and it's just a good thing to just come out here and do some work. It's a little challenging with the roads and everything, but overall it's really good."
Watson, whose job has taken her across the globe into Jamaica many times before, jumped at the invitation from Wright to come and spend two weeks sharing her time and medical experience, despite the very bad roads and remote location, very close to the Blue Mountains.
Roads pose challenge
"It wasn't too much of a challenge, because I used to do volunteer work abroad. When Haiti had their earthquake, I was there twice. I was in Annotto Bay (St Mary) about four years ago, and I also went with Dr Trevor Dixon who came just January past to do some ultrasound teaching at Victoria Jubilee Hospital, and went up to Oracabessa (St Mary) to a nursing home. So this is not really so hard. The most challenging part is the roads."
"What I really like about this is that it's basically free to the people, who pay $50. That's absolutely nothing and then they get their refills; and when they can't accommodate them they are referred to another hospital, probably in Kingston."
Nurse Watson, who is slated to leave the island tomorrow, was happy to spend what was for her a working vacation, helping others and reaffirming her Jamaicaness.
PHOTOS BY CHRISTOPHER SERJU