Doctors gear for ‘healthy population’


Monday, June 09, 2014

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MANY Jamaicans return home to do elective surgery and dental work, expressing confidence in our home-grown 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.

Significantly, the MAJ — Jamaica's oldest professional organisation — elected one of its youngest presidents last year, Dr Shane Alexis. He credits his two predecessors, Drs Winston De La Haye and 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 they are finite -- then methodology and work processes will have to be increased to augment output. Therefore, resource optimisation will have to be critical watchwords."

We agree with the health minister that resource optimisation 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 the tobacco regulations. One commentator remarked that the chain 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.

Kudos Drs Fraser, Falconer, Rose, and Ward

When Hurricane Sandy hit Jamaica in October 2012, the Annotto Bay Hospital took a heavy blow as we saw in the many news reports. Happily, the senior medical officer in charge of the facility was none other than Dr Ray Fraser, who has the unique quality of being attracted, not repelled, by difficult tasks. He immediately set about spearheading a fund-raising exercise and energetically applied the funds as they came in to almost magically transform the facility. Ninety million dollars was raised in a private-public sector collaboration which was generously promoted by the RJR Communications Group.

Dr Fraser, who received the Order of Distinction - Commander Class last year, received the President's Award at the MAJ banquet on Saturday evening, while distinguished physicians Drs Hopeton Falconer and Christopher Rose were selected for the Annual MAJ Awards.

This Friday, the Kiwanis Club of New Kingston will also honour the courageous Dr Elizabeth Ward, head of the Violence Prevention Alliance. She has inspired many to take the path of compassion, partnering with troubled communities for their healing. The endearing Dr Liz is 'little but tallawah'!

Football fever and CVM

The 2014 Brazil World Cup kicks off this Thursday in Sao Paolo, and it is a given that we may be in a state of distraction as 'the most popular sport in the world' shows off its finest. No wonder CVM-TV Chairman Wayne Chen moved to assure us via a press release last week that his station, which has exclusive rights to broadcast the games, has nearing 100 per cent coverage after investments of "hundreds of millions" in recent years and a partnership with an Internet provider. We look forward to some great World Cup moments so we hope CVM's efforts will provide us with the means to enjoy them. The Jamaica Observer's print coverage has already begun.

Rotary's 'BizTown' gears for launch

Rotary Club of Kingston president and head of Ernst & Young Allison Peart is spearheading one of the most unique projects for empowerment that our country has seen in a long time. In collaboration with Junior Achievement Jamaica, her club is creating ' JA BizTown', at the Caenwood Centre in Kingston, where 11 storefronts will be established, and run by Grade 5 students. The Rotarians have gone as far as convincing the Ministry of Education to change the school curriculum to give in-class business lessons, and have the generous support of ICWI Chairman Dennis Lalor, who has been promoting the project to his colleagues. The $20-million project is due to takeoff in October of this year and the lucky sponsors will be remembered forever by the children who will be selling their products to make real money in BizTown.

Valerie Juggan-Brown — 30 excellent years

We gathered at the elegant Hope Zoo gazebos last Friday to celebrate the birthday of my sister-friend Valerie Juggan-Brown and the 30th anniversary of her leadership at the Guardsman Group of companies. When she studied at the Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft in Cologne, Germany, her friends called her 'Frau Punt' as she strived for the highest marks. This habit of excellence has served her well in every aspect of her life. Even as Guardsman Chair Kenny Benjamin lauds her for her pragmatic approach to business, her husband Ron Brown and son Marc Antoine cannot hide their pride and admiration for their caring wife and mother.

For us her friends, she is a rock. I have called her in the middle of the night to ask her to do me a favour. "Are you asleep?" I asked. "Yes," she said. "Well, wake up and grab a pen, because this is important. I am boarding a plane shortly and you can't forget to do this." Such are the demands you can make on a true pal, who has made it one of her favourite stories. Happy Birthday, and congratulations, my beautiful friend, Val.




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