Non-communicable diseases surpass infections as leading cause of deaths — Tufton

Monday, October 16, 2017

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ST JAMES, Jamaica (JIS) — Minister of Health, Dr Christopher Tufton, says chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have now overtaken infectious diseases as the leading cause of mortality worldwide.

Addressing the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ) 71st annual general meeting & 47th island conference at Royalton White Sands, Trelawny, last Friday, Tufton cited a World Health Organisation (WHO) report which confirms that 80 per of premature deaths are caused by heart disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic lung disease, and are concentrated in low and middle income countries such as Jamaica.

“The management of these diseases requires long-term and in some cases life-long care, which definitely puts a strain on any health system,” Tufton explained.

“Jamaica, among other countries, is also faced with some critical issues, including an increasing population with ageing infrastructure; the shifting demographic profile, coupled with a change in lifestyle choices and the way we seek medical care,” he added.

The minister said that based on the complexities in health and the growing demand for quality health care services, “we need everyone to be on board.”

“There is no doubt that the nursing profession can contribute to the transformation of the health services and how health care is delivered,” Tufton said.

“We are also aware of the significant challenges as the nursing workforce continues to experience a severe shortage, including specialist nurses, particularly in the areas of critical care and midwifery. Currently Jamaica has 173 critical care nurses and the ideal number is 240,” he added.

Tufton said that the shortage is affected by the global nursing deficit, forcing aggressive recruitment of the highly skilled registered nurses by mainly developed countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.

“The problem is further magnified by the effects of high turnover, dampening employee morale and results in a huge loss of intellectual capital, which inadvertently compromises patient care and is detrimental to the health service delivery,” he noted.

“To tackle some of these challenges, some strategies have been employed in an attempt to fill some of the gaps in the nursing workforce,” the minister said.

Tufton argued that the strategies employed will effectively utilise the limited resources to optimise performance and to increase the intake of specialist nurses.

“These include the establishment of 300 additional new posts. We have asked for 1,000 posts to increase security of tenure and continue the discussion to achieve the full figure. We will also see continued training in critical care and where 27 candidates have completed courses at the University of Technology,” he pointed out.

“We continue to seek assistance from the Cuban Government by recruiting specialist nurses. The last group that came in August consisted of 27 nurses,” the minister said.

He also mentioned established technical cooperation with other countries, such as the UK, USA and Canada, to increase training opportunities.

“We are far advanced in these discussions with the UK and hope to send our first batch of nurses in March 2018,” Dr Tufton added.

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