Letter of the Day: Scrap bureaucratic regional health authorities
As Dr Fenton Ferguson marches to execution in the public square for high treason following his lack of transparency, the cheering public needs to be reminded of certain fundamentals that seem to have been overlooked during this emotional, star-chamber trial, during the pre-election silly season.
The overshadowing presence of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been known historically and literally to bring with it inevitable pressure upon, and characteristic decline of, social services: in particular, health and education.
When CXC results are published and many cohorts fail to pass English and mathematics, the news becomes a nine-day wonder at best. When there is a problem or crisis in the health services, there is loud national protest. In the present case, the conclusion is, "Fenton cause it."
With IMF-induced shortages of resources, there is no way prescribed protocols can be assiduously maintained. We who have worked in the government service know and understand at first hand what substandard conditions mean - in spite of which world-class clinical results and 'publications' in international journals were produced.
There is also need to remember that even if the budget for health is increased, the purchasing power through devaluation is grossly reduced.
The public also needs to be reminded of the four regional health authorities (RHAs). These innovations by a previous People's National Party government were imported from the United Kingdom, where they have been abandoned and are widely regarded as the genesis of some problems in the National Health Service now being sorted out in the UK.
Here in Jamaica, each RHA acts as though it is the ministry of health - that is to say, four health ministries in this small island of 2.7 million people, each acting as if it were independent. Each has a massive bureaucracy expensively housed at great cost to the taxpayer.
Those funds should be used to buy drugs, gloves, swabs, sterilising agents, well-needed equipment, etc, and in maintaining the hospital plant. The perception, arising especially from complaints coming in, is that their main focus is to 'manage' the doctors.
Needless to say, the RHAs have little understanding of the requirements of medical training programmes or career paths for doctors. This very costly innovation has not worked. RHAs should be dismantled and those funds used to improve the health services in many essential areas.
The public also needs to be reminded that the policy of no user fees is workable only in rich, industrialised, highly disciplined countries. However desirable, it has not worked here and will not work in our present economic circumstances.
JOHN A.S. HALL
Medical Associates Hospital