The North East Regional Health Authority (NERHA) is on a mission to generate funds to bring the Port Maria Hospital operating theatre back to its former glory.
The Port Maria Hospital was the place to go in St Mary if surgery was needed from the 1960s to the late 1970s. In the early 1980s, during the rationalisation of health services, the operating theatre at the facility ceased operating.
Since then, trauma cases have been referred to both the Annotto Bay and St Ann's Bay Regional hospitals. During the period July 2011 to June 2012, 364 patients were transferred from the Port Maria Hospital to other health facilities for emergency care. Of this number, 228 were sent to the Annotto Bay Hospital and 101 to the St Ann's Bay Hospital. This situation increases the workload on both facilities.
Dr Isaac Brown, parish manager of St Mary Health Services, said the hospital had the best operating theatre in the region in the 1980s.
"People were accustomed to coming here for surgery from all parts of the parish and the adjoining parishes, but unfortunately the facility was closed, so the Port Maria Hospital has been operating without this kind of service for some time," Dr Brown explained.
The NERHA said the absence of an operating theatre at the hospital compromises the care of critically ill clients requiring surgical procedures as a part of their clinical management.
The Port Maria Hospital and Health Complex is ideally located between the towns of Ocho Rios and Port Antonio, two major tourist areas.
"The north coast highway is right there and from time to time we have to receive persons who are badly hurt, so the operating theatre will help us to stabilise them," Dr Brown said.
The Port Maria Hospital serves a population of approximately 113,000. The Type Three Health Centre, which serves the surrounding communities, is also located on the same compound as the hospital, hence the name 'Port Maria Hospital and Health Complex'.
Refurbishing work to the interior and exterior of the operating theatre began in December 2011. Today, the operating theatre is 98 per cent complete. The work, valued at $15 million, was funded by the National Health Fund.
"So far, we have started refurbishing. We are now in the process of trying to furnish this facility," Dr Brown said.
Meanwhile, NERHA will host a staff awards fund-raising dinner on April 27 at the Club Hotel RIU in Mammee Bay, St Ann, in an effort to raise funds to assist in furnishing the theatre.
The event is being called, 'Leaders in Excellence', and will be held under the theme, 'On a mission to promote excellence through leadership'.
The event will seek to recognise and award members of staff who have made an indelible contribution to health care, and to the community.
The NERHA said in a release that the "funds garnered from this event will be used to assist in furnishing the Port Maria Hospital operating theatre with critical equipment necessary to conduct minor operations and day surgeries".
However, the NERHA is calling on the kind support of corporate Jamaica to assist in making its dream of having a fully operating theatre a reality.
"We are calling on corporate Jamaica to come on board and help us because we don't have all the funds that we need, but we know that there are persons out there that will want to help advance health care not only in St Mary but Jamaica as a whole. It will greatly enhance and improve the quality of service," said Dr Brown.
The facility is enlisting the support of partners and sponsors to assist in the initiative by purchasing tickets for the fund-raiser. Club Hotel RIU has pledged its support of the noble cause and is a major sponsor.
Furnishing the existing operating theatre will see one room being used for minor operations and the other for post-anaesthesia recovery in the short to medium term. This will cost up to $30 million.