Gareth Davis Sr, Gleaner Writer
PORT ANTONIO, Portland:
CLAIMING THAT the health-care system in Portland is being seriously compromised due to a shortage of equipment and other resources, Sheryl Spencer, a Jamaican nurse and educator in the United States (US), is determined to provide assistance to the Port Antonio Hospital.
In 2011, while vacationing in Portland, Spencer realised the worrying situation at the hospital during a visit to that facility by her mother, who was also in Jamaica on holiday.
"It was rather frightening. I observed that the staff was doing an excellent job under pressure and with a shortage of basic resources," recalled Spencer. "There was a shortage of gloves, which put nurses and patients at risk as they (nurses) should not come in contact with body fluids from anyone due to the risk of them contracting and passing on a disease. Equipment that are only to be used once were being re-used, which is a serious health risk," she added.
Spencer, who holds a PhD in education and also lectures nursing students in New York, said that she was impressed with the level of professionalism displayed by the staff at the Port Antonio Hospital, who, as a result of their commitment to providing health care to residents, are using unconventional means on a daily basis to ensure that patients are treated.
But while Spencer is troubled by her discovery at the Type C health facility, which is the only one of its kind in the parish, she disclosed that a civic group called 'Friends of the Hospital' has been working around the clock to get much needed assistance for that facility. She has now formed an alliance with them in charting the way forward.
One of the initiatives that was undertaken by the alliance was a walk-a-thon on August 5 in Port Antonio, which was deemed as a success despite the inclement weather.
The group is also discussing the likelihood of staging a benefit concert for the hospital, which could see a number of the country's best reggae artistes performing at the event.
Said Spencer: "It is the responsibility of the ministry of health to ensure that residents receive at least the minimum standard of health care, which is clearly lacking at this hospital.
"There is also the problem of a shortage of regulators for oxygen tanks, which seems a bit silly, as they cost up to US$250 each. Nurses have to be rationing regulators, and one hates to think what would happen should five or six persons require oxygen all at the same time. The diaspora in New York appears willing to help, and as such persons have donated money towards helping the hospital, having learned of the situation."