CLAREMONT, St Ann — Work to upgrade the Claremont Health Centre in St Ann into one of four centres of excellence, earmarked for development by the Ministry of Health, is scheduled to get underway shortly.
Ground for the $40.6-million project, being funded by the National Health Fund (NHF), was broken last Friday by Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson.
The scope of works will include: expansion and modification of sections of the existing building; construction of a new waiting area; upgrading of the sanitary facilities and electrical fixtures; paving of the driveway and parking area; and erection of a new perimeter fence.
The other facilities earmarked to be developed into centres of excellence are the Isaac Barrant Health Centre, St Thomas; Santa Cruz Health Centre, St Elizabeth; and Darliston Health Centre, Westmoreland. Their upgrading forms part of the ministry's efforts to enhance the provision of primary health care islandwide.
Speaking at Friday's ceremony, Dr Ferguson cited the current high incidence of non-communicable diseases among the reasons for the ministry's heightened focus on advancing primary health care. Access to the centres will reduce the number of persons seeking health care at secondary institutions, primarily hospitals.
"Non-communicable diseases have been the bane of our health system in recent times, costing us in excess of US$179 million annually. More and more Jamaicans suffer due to these illnesses, which are largely lifestyle-related. Cancers, heart disease, respiratory illnesses, diabetes, and hypertension are ravaging our people at an alarming rate. These are among the top 10 killers," Dr Ferguson said.
In highlighting the impact of cancer, particularly of the lungs, the minister reiterated that 71 per cent of all cases recorded globally resulted either from the victim indulging in cigarette smoking or being exposed to second-hand smoke.
Hence, he added, the implementation of regulations banning public smoking in specified areas, which he reminded "is not anything personal", while again appealing for wide-scale support.
Said the minister: "I need each and every one of you to see it as your responsibility to protect your right to a smoke-free environment. I want us to ensure that the health of our children, our workers, and even smokers themselves and others, are protected and preserved," Dr Ferguson stressed.
Leon Gordon, chairman of the North East Regional Health Authority (NERHA), which has direct purview for the Claremont Health Centre, said that after completion of the project, persons will be able to access the institution's services between 7:00 am and 4:00 pm on weekdays, and from 8:00 am to 12:00 noon on Saturdays.