Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Doctors gear for ‘healthy population’

Jean Lowrie-Chin (Jamaica Observer column published 9 June 2014)
HAVANA, Cuba — The Jamaican medical system was boosted by the injection of 68 newly trained medical doctors last year.
The Jamaican doctors graduated from the Medical Faculty of the University of Santiago de Cuba last Tuesday in a short and spicy ceremony that lasted an hour and 13 minutes, much less than any of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean. - The Jamaica Observer
Many Jamaicans return home to do elective surgery and dental work, expressing confidence in our homegrown doctors.  As one individual remarked, “Here in Jamaica I am a name – there I am just a number.” A look at the programme for last week’s Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ) annual symposium explained why we can have this level of confidence: our doctors take their vocation seriously, constantly researching, writing and upgrading their skills. 
President of the Medical Association of Jamaica, Dr Shane Alexis (left), poses with three doctors honoured by the organisation at its recent banquet held in St Andrew. From left are Dr Ray Fraser, Senior Medical Officer of the Annotto Bay Hospital in St Mary, who received the President's Award; Dr Hopeton Falconer of the Mandeville General Hospital who was given the MAJ Council Award, and Dr RE Christopher Rose of the University Hospital of the West Indies, who, too, copped the MAJ Council Award.
Significantly, the MAJ, Jamaica’s oldest professional organisation, elected one of its youngest Presidents last year, Dr. Shane Alexis.  He credits his two predecessors, Dr Winston De La Haye and Dr Aggrey Irons, with setting the foundation for the rapid renovation of the MAJ headquarters at Roosevelt Avenue, which can now house meetings and workshops to advance the dynamic leader’s vision of a healthy population.
The intrepid Dr Fenton Ferguson, who has dared to go where many other Health Ministers feared to tread – the enactment of anti-smoking legislation – was guest speaker at last week’s elegant opening ceremony. The Minister gave us a discreet lesson in protocol at the beginning of his address: “I am impressed by the level of planning and deliberation that must have been put into this event as evidenced by the long lead-time of the invitation. I therefore had little difficulty in ensuring that I am here with you.” Event planners, take note.

Dr Ferguson (a dentist by profession) reflected, “Why is it that several of Jamaica’s indicators rival that of many more developed countries? The easy answer lies in recognition of the professionalism and competence of health professionals.”
However, he observed, “But a greater consideration is the dynamic rebalancing of the efficiency triangle that has resources in the form of personnel, infrastructure and equipment at one apex methodology and work processes at another and output (health care delivery) at the other.  If we hold resources constant (since it is finite) then methodology and work processes will have to be increased to augment output... Therefore resource optimization will have to be critical watchwords.”
We agree with the Health Minister that resource optimization should be the critical watchwords not only for health, but also for all sectors; unfortunately we are not seeing that level of efficiency and accountability in many areas of the public sector. 
“By the time that I make my contribution in the Sectoral Debate I will be in a position to settle the amendments to the Tobacco Regulations which have so far bestowed many benefits to Jamaica’s health system,” said Minister Ferguson.

It must have been quite a journey for the minister to have piloted those amendments to tobacco regulations – one commentator remarked that the train of events could have been the plot for a high-drama movie.  We can just imagine the power of that lobby, and so we should be proud that the minister remained resolute.  We salute the many Jamaicans who have promoted this cause tirelessly, in particular Heart Foundation Chairman, Dr Knox Hagley.

As we note the greying of the world’s populations and the many health challenges that occur as we age, it is clear that a partnership between the ministries of health and tourism could reap rich rewards for this ‘island in the sun’ with our legendary natural mineral springs and brilliant medics.  Clearly the Health Ministry and the MAJ are up to the task.

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