MANDEVILLE, Manchester — South Central Jamaica's long-standing dream of its own Type A hospital has come closer to reality with the recent formal opening of the renovated Block J at the Mandeville Regional Hospital.
The National Health Fund (NHF) provided just over $135 million for the work on the building -- long described as being at one time the "face" of the hospital but which has been out of use for many years.
The new-look, two-storey wing now houses medical wards, a 22-bed neonatal unit, a fertility control unit and a surgical suite.
A fact profile on Block J said the renovated facility will permit the hospital "to improve its (adult) bed complement from 206 to 226, better meeting its average bed occupancy of 91 per cent".
Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson told the audience at the opening ceremony that Block J was just one phase in the longer-term development of the hospital. He said the ministry was intent on making the institution, which targets a population of approximately 600,000 persons in the Southern Region, a Type A facility. Type A status means the hospital will be able to offer all relevant "support services" and patients will not necessarily have to be sent to other hospitals for treatment.
"We do not plan to stop here," Ferguson said.
"There are plans afoot for a phase two of the project, which will see the procurement of equipment at a total value of $80 million, also funded by the NHF. Infrastructural improvements are also being made to Block H which will allow the hospital to optimise the use of both blocks to accommodate the patients who have to be housed at the Observation Bay within the Accident and Emergency Ward."
Ferguson said the Government was also "one step closer to securing additional land for future development of the hospital". The additional land will facilitate an expanded casualty department, a comprehensive laboratory facility, cancer care unit, additional bed capacity, training and conference room, a helipad and additional parking spaces.
Plans for the development of the hospital, this financial year, include renovation of the operating theatre and expansion of the dialysis building to provide space for an additional five machines, according to Ferguson.
The health minister who was also in Mandeville for the first public consultation of health financing, said that while the Government is committed to improving health care for Jamaicans, it could not do it alone.
"...We recognise that we cannot meet our objectives on our own, especially given the tight fiscal space within (which) we have to operate," he said.
In line with the minister's sentiments, the Manchester Wellness Foundation made a donation of $1 million at the function, for the purchase of equipment for the paediatric ward at the hospital.
Both Ferguson and Mayor of Mandeville Brenda Ramsay highlighted the importance of the recently expanded space at Block J. They explained that it may be less likely for particularly infants using the facility to encounter "cross-infections" as a result of overcrowding.
"Although Jamaica has made progress in these two areas (reduction in maternal mortality and infant mortality rates) the country is lagging behind in respect of the rate of reduction that must be achieved by 2015," said Ferguson, while emphasising that the renovation of Block J must be viewed within the context of Jamaica's commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
That said, he is confident that the Mandeville Regional Hospital can be upgraded to type A status in the short term through "collective efforts".
Sterling Soares, chairman of the National Health Fund, hailed the renovation work at the hospital as "another project of excellence" undertaken by the Southern Regional Health Authority (SRHA).