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Mixed reviews for Tufton in first 100 days

Published:Monday | June 13, 2016 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has received mixed reviews from stakeholders in the health sector, a little more than 100 days after he took charge of the health portfolio.

President of the Nurses' Association of Jamaica, Janet Farr, says she is still looking to see what changes the new minister will implement to positively impact the health sector.

"I know that he has sent for some nurses, but we still don't hear anything about trying to retain specialist nurses in Jamaica," Farr told The Gleaner.

Nurses with specialised skills have been migrating to the United States and Canada, where they have been offered improved salary and benefits.

Farr argued that everybody is 'skirting' around the issue of paying specialist nurses meaningful remuneration in Jamaica in order to retain them locally.

"The retention strategy is to offer those specialist nurses more money for the work that they do, but everybody is skirting away from that - nobody wants to take that on. But the truth is, this is what they are going to have to do in any event," she noted.

According to Farr, research has shown that in CARICOM, Jamaican nurses fall third from the bottom behind Guyana and Haiti in terms of remuneration.

She said while the health sector is focusing on the Zika virus, steps must be taken to further strengthen health care locally to adequately treat the onset of other diseases such as yellow fever.

"I am public health trained, and the mosquitoes have not told us yet what other viruses we are going to be running from. Yellow fever is coming out of Africa - we got rid of yellow fever a long-time ago, but it could very well come here. So we are hopping, skipping and jumping and, at the same time, health needs some strengthening," she added.

At the same time, Yulit Gordon, executive director of the Jamaica Cancer Society, said she was encouraged by the demonstration of commitment by the health minister to improving and strengthening the Jamaican health-care systems.

"His current handling of the Zika virus is to be commended as the health promotion is sustained and far-reaching. In addition, his endorsement of and his participation in the national move for health promotion, designed to encourage Jamaicans to practice physical activity and healthy nutrition as a means of reducing their vulnerability to non-communicable diseases such as cancer, is also to be commended," she said.