Rats! Harry Watch Health Centre closed

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND
Observer staff reporter
sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver. com

Monday, January 15, 2018

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — chief public health inspector in Manchester, Charmaine Palmer-Cross has confirmed that the Harry Watch Health Centre was closed due to rodent infestation and because of its aged and unsafe structure.

She said that action was taken this month after failed efforts to keep the centre open.

The health facility reportedly serves residents in north-east and north-west Manchester.

Palmer-Cross made the disclosure while providing clarity about the situation for Councillor Omar Miller (Jamaica Labour Party, Craighead Division) at last Thursday's meeting of the Manchester Municipal Corporation.

“We do close our own facilities when we recognise that it might pose a risk to public health,” Palmer-Cross said. “The building is old, that's the first thing; it's a really old structure and small as well. We really recognised that there were issues not just in the health centre but in the area as it relates to rodents.”

Palmer-Cross said that health facilities, including the Harry Watch centre, are treated for pests by the public health department, but for optimum sanitation more sometimes needed to be done because rodent control is goes beyond just setting baits.

“There are a number of issues there. We have tried before to prevent a closure; this was coming for a couple months now. Our teams have been working [to] see what could have been done to avert it but it has reached the stage now where it could not be averted any more,” she said, adding that people who used the facility could now access service at the Mile Gully Health Centre.

Palmer-Cross said that even in the town of Mandeville there are problems with rodents, and a collaborative programme with the municipal corporation and Southern Parks and Markets need to be implemented to address the issue.

Despite the explanation, Councillor Miller said he was not in agreement with the closure, especially at a time when public hospitals are encouraging residents to use the service at health centres. He also noted that a number of communities benefit from the facility.

He said that although there are obvious limitations of a small and aged building, the place was well-kept and service was in demand, from what he observed during the times he visited before the closure.

Miller said a meeting towards a solution could have been had with the political representatives for the area before the decision was taken.

“The last clinic that was ordered closed for remedial work is the one which is closest to that clinic (Harry Watch) — in Robin's Hall — and that has been closed for 24 years. When I hear now of persons having to travel all the way to Mile Gully, believe you me, it brings tears to my eyes. We have to have a sit-down,” he said.

Mayor of Mandeville and chairman of the Manchester Municipal Corporation, Donovan Mitchell instructed that a building officer be assigned to look at the facility, with public health representatives, councillors and members of parliament whose divisions and constituencies are impacted, to determine what can be done.

“I am going to ask that you do it as quickly as possible,” he said.

Social Development Commission Parish Manager Beverly Boothe said the Harry Watch Community Development Committee (CDC) is also willing to provide support.

She urged that bodies such as the public health department be open to assistance from CDCs, because sometimes they face “stumbling blocks” in trying to offer service.

“They are not made legal entities just to sit there; they are there to help in the community development process and we need to utilise them, they can get funds that you can't get,” said Boothe.

Palmer-Cross told the meeting that she understands the concerns and insisted that closing any facility is always a last resort.

“If you can assist us in finding an alternate building we are willing to move, we are willing to pay the rent. We can work outside of this meeting as it relates to how we go forward,” she said.

Palmer-Cross said that from her understanding of the situation, the building that now occupies the Harry Watch Health Centre is rented property but the owners have no interest in rehabilitation.

She said she had also heard about the construction of a new building in the area for the facility, but it appears that process is happening at a slow pace.

Meanwhile, Miller told the Jamaica Observer Central that he was reliably informed that funds have been allocated for the reopening of the health centre at Robin's Hall.

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