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Long wait for babies' heart surgeries! - Gov't misses deadline to start operations for 300 children on waiting list

Published:Wednesday | July 26, 2017 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson
Sancia Bennett Templer
Mikael Phillips

The Ministry of Health has admitted to missing its mid-year deadline for the start of heart surgeries at a new cardiac centre at the Bustamante Hospital for Children in St Andrew.

Some parliamentarians are not pleased.

Approximately 300 children are on a waiting list, according to updated documents the ministry presented yesterday to Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC).

In March, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said he was hoping that surgeries would begin by the middle of this year, following the completion of the facility which has been hit by several delays.

But Sancia Bennett Templer, the permanent secretary in the ministry, told the PAAC that the children on the waiting list would not be seen until at least October. "The building is ready. We anticipate that we will have that furnished by the middle of August so that we can begin to have coordination of surgeries.

"Surgeries are scheduled to commence in October and November of this year. We are now finalising all of the equipment that would be needed," she added. "There has been some delay, undoubtedly."


What is priority


But Mikael Phillips, the member of parliament for Manchester North Western, bemoaned the further delays, saying that the project has been ongoing since 2012. "It comes back again to what is our priority. In your report, you have some 300 (children) waiting, and you can't give a timeline on when any of these cases is going to be dealt with."

He noted that the project, which started out as a gift, has stretched over five Budget cycles. He also highlighted the lack of priority by his previous People's National Party administration and the current Jamaica Labour Party administration.

"It touches right at the core," Phillips said.

Bennett Templer noted, however, that overseas medical teams have done surgeries here, while the Government has financed some patients in critical conditions getting surgeries in the Cayman Islands. "But that's no excuse for the fact that we still have 300 cases awaiting surgery."

PAAC chairman Dr Wykeham McNeill, at Phillips' request, advised that the committee would be monitoring the situation.