JAMAICA is currently ranked second highest for cervical cancer cases in the world, but with the opening of a women's centre at the Spanish Town Hospital in St Catherine, it is expected that more abnormal pap smears will be detected so that women can get early treatment.
The Queen Sofia of Spain Women's Centre has been in operation for at least four months now, but was officially opened last Thursday. The centre is a gift from the Spanish Government, and was financed to the tune of $30 million. It currently offers a comprehensive and holistic range of counselling and psychiatric services as well as colposcopic services.
"Prior to us getting this unit, the last time we did colposcopy in this hospital was about 1999, because when our old colposcopy unit broke down, it was so old, parts were not available to repair it. So this unit has come at a very timely time in the life of this hospital," said obstetrics and gynaecology consultant at the hospital Dr Vary Leslie.
The hospital gets about 50 patients who are referred to them each month because of abnormal pap smears. In addition to the opening of the women's centre, the hospital also secured the services of a cytologist last year, which now enables them to get pap smear results back within three to four weeks, as opposed to the six months they had to wait before.
"Prior to having the unit, our patients had to have home biopsies which was a much more invasive procedure requiring general anaesthetic and I can tell you when the patients came with their abnormal paps and they were told they had to do a procedure that required them to go to sleep, a lot of the time they did not turn up," ObGyn pointed out.
The women's centre offers a wide range of counselling services between Mondays to Fridays and has three colposcopy sessions per week. At least 108 clients between the ages of 17 to 80 years old have already gone through 200 sessions at the centre since its opening. Approximately 90 per cent of these individuals were females.
In offering her gratitude to King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain for their contribution in developing the centre, Prime Minster Portia Simpson Miller said the facility would contribute to the empowerment of women.
"In addition to treating women who have suffered from various forms of abuse, depression and anxiety, this centre in establishing coloscopy services will now provide much needed treatment in the management of cervical cancer, which I think is very important and critical in our country, particularly at this time, because this is one of the leading causes of death among Jamaican women," she said.
Spain's ambassador to Jamaica Celsa Nuno, noted that health care is a fundamental human right which formed the basis for social and economic development. She commended Simpson Miller for her contribution to the advancement of women in the country.
"My country has traditionally maintained over the years a firm commitment towards gender equality, recognising that women are a vulnerable sector of society often subjected to inequalities and discrimination," she pointed out.
"By contributing to women's empowerment, we believe that we contribute to overcoming societal challenges caused by poverty, as women are the most powerful agents for social change."