World-class health care hub could better channel help from Diaspora, create jobs

By Kesi Asher
Observer writer
editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, July 31, 2017

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In keeping with the theme of the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference 'Partnering for Growth', Dr Gary Rhule has proposed the development of a world-class health care hub in Jamaica to maximise job creation.

Dr Rhule, the Jamaican-born director of health and human services in Hartford, Connecticut, made his proposal during a well received presentation on health care, at the conference which was held in Kingston from July 23 to 26, 2017. He suggested that a central information hub could fill many needs in the health sector through the managed resources of donors, and create much-needed jobs in various sectors.

Instead of running independent medical missions as is currently the popular approach, the health care hub would capture medical needs across the island and channel this information through to the Diaspora, thereby allowing them to more effectively provide what was needed.

Dr Rhule pointed to the fact that the United Kingdom Diaspora had adopted 55 clinics under the 'Adopt a Clinic' programme established by the Ministry of Health, and proposed that the US Diaspora similarly adopts another 55 clinics, thereby providing financing and development.

“We are very enthusiastic to match the UK Diaspora's adoption of 55 clinics, in celebration of Jamaica's 55 years of Independence, and I will work vigorously with the US Diaspora team to support this goal,” Rhule pledged.

The good news, he said, was that the Health Ministry had already instituted a Health and Wellness Centre, noting that Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, speaking at the conference, had encouraged the Diaspora to allow the medical donations to flow through this centre.

In support of this type of central processing, Dr Rhule outlined a three-phase approach to creating a world- class health care hub that would open up career opportunities in the medical and technological industries.

“Global health care expenditure is about US$6.5 trillion annually. If we can capture one per cent of that, we are looking at a lot of money and a lot of jobs,” said Rhule.

Phase one would see the joining of clinics to the public and private sectors and universities, to identify and strengthen academic and public partnerships. This process mirrors that of the Office of Public Engagement at the University of Connecticut.

Phase two looks at matching the need to the donation. Dr Rhule suggested that once the Diaspora and the needs are identified, the contributions would be directed to the specific projects. The gathering and processing of this information would require data collectors, data analysts, software engineers, systems managers, and cyber security operators.

“The future of health care is to harness the power of technology. If we can link what we are doing to technology, that would be great. Health care is wholesome and fun, and we are all in this together,” said Dr Rhule, noting that linking this technology to medical careers, the hub would provide jobs for doctors, nurses, telemedicine businesses, medication management, pharmacists, among others.

The final phase of this three-pronged approach involves transforming clinics into centres of excellence that would aid in measuring information gathering and add meaning to the results.

Rhule said: “Transforming the clinics into centres of excellence will include research and development, where the community is involved in information-gathering and product testing. Health care products and services that have been tried and tested with community focus in mind, will definitely be more responsive to their needs.

“This is what health care is about, sharing information with a valued partner that is responsive to your needs — similar to the relationship that you have with a trusted friend.”

He argued that research would bring investment, employ researchers, and create other direct and indirect jobs. The research dollars could also be put towards the development of the clinics.

“Health care infrastructure requires joining multiple layers of interconnected care. In addition, when we infuse a high standard of medical practice measured by standardisation and accreditation, operational excellence can be maintained in the clinics, yielding a world-class health care hub with a seamless operation,” Rhule explained.

“The opportunity exists for clinics now because at present there isn't enough research involvement at the community level and with clinics in general. If we can accomplish that, the clinics can serve as models of care in the health care hub…

“We then can help other clinics who are struggling with the same issues and make the clinics true centres of excellence — moving theory into practice and backed up by solid evidence of success,” Dr Rhule insisted.


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