Regional

New hospital ward, Centre of Excellence for St Ann

BY RENAE DIXON Sunday Observer staff reporter dixonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, June 29, 2014    

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WITH a new ward at the St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital and the opening of the Claremont Centre of Excellence, stakeholders in St Ann are expecting to see a major boost in health care delivery in the parish.

On Friday, Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson, several officials from his ministry and members of the North East Regional Health Authority opened the new ward and the Centre of Excellence in Claremont.

Several people turned out for the two ceremonies held to mark both occasions.

The first ceremony was at the St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital where a large crowd gathered for the opening of the new female medical ward. The hospital has been facing an overcrowding issue, with the problem surfacing in 2012.

The Accident and Emergency (A&E) department of the hospital has been forced over the last few years to house several persons admitted to the hospital, due to a shortage of beds.

According to Dr Nicole Dawkins, senior medical officer of the hospital, in 2012 the A&E department was accommodating up to 60 patients at the facility. However, due to the bed shortage, many were forced to remain in that department which was designed to accommodate eight trolleys, she said.

This had been not only a challenge for patients but for the health care providers. As a result, many have expressed joy at seeing the new addition to the hospital.

The SMO said that there were many hurdles in the construction of the new ward. However, she expressed joy in seeing its completion.

"I am very happy to stand here and look at the individuals who help surmount those hurdles," she stated.

Shahine Robinson, member of parliament for North East St Ann, also expressed her happiness for the new ward. She urged workers to be vanguards for the ward, ensuring that the facility is taken care of and that it delivers the required services.

Leo Garel, chief executive officer of the hospital, said that it was also important for patients to take care of the facility. He said that persons

abuse government-owned properties because they believe that they are free and so persons are entitled to do as they feel.

Approximately $136 million was spent to construct the ward at the St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Dr Ferguson said that the new ward "will be even more essential as the ministry moves to ensure a patient-centred approach to health care delivery. Our obligation to provide world- class health services to the people of Jamaica begins with respecting the dignity and basic rights of individuals without compromise," Dr Ferguson said.

He said that there has been an increased demand for adult medical services at the hospital over the last few years.

"In 2012, the hospital's daily census showed a range of 225 to 285 occupancy level. There was a need for at least 300 beds to satisfy the current patient load," Dr Ferguson said.

The new female ward is expected to address the issue of overcrowding, Dr Ferguson said. He stated that a visit to the hospital in 2012 revealed that the majority of the patients who had to wait in the A&E department were women.

"Under this project, 47 rooms were constructed which will help to satisfy a critical need and increase the hospital's overall bed capacity by about 20 per cent," the minister said.

He further stated that the new ward will not only serve to address the issue of overcrowding, but will address the issue of mentally-ill patients being kept in the same area with other patients.

"A separation of patients who require mental health intervention from those with general medical complaints can be done and patients will now be able to remain in hospital for the period required for their recovery, in keeping with international standards of care," he said.

Since 2012, nearly $1.5 billion has been spent improving the secondary-care infrastructure across the island, Dr Ferguson said. Of that amount, almost $600 million has been spent in the North East Region improving health care delivery.

"Importantly, more than half of that allocation, or $325 million, was spent or is in the process of being spent at the St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital. This includes improvements in storage, purchase of equipment, the installation of central air conditioning for the Accident and Emergency department, the construction of a perimeter wall, which is now in the procurement stage, and the construction of the female medical ward at a cost.

Following the opening of the ward, persons journeyed to the Claremont Centre of Excellence where the smiles on the residents' faces spoke to the joy of having the facility in the community.

The facility, which will serve approximately 12,000 people being treated, was constructed at a cost of $40.6 million. The building on the hills of Claremont was a renovation of the health centre which existed at the location before. The centre of excellence will not only provide basic primary health care, but is also expected to carry out diagnostic and dental services. The minister said that the centre, as well as the other centres of excellence across the island, will receive an ambulance.

Bentley Steer, parish manager of the St Ann Health Department, said that the opening of the Claremont Centre of Excellence is "a historic event as it is the first of its kind in St Ann and in the North East region".

Lisa Hanna, Minister of Youth and Culture and MP for South East St Ann, spoke of the significance of having the health centre in the area. Hanna said that the constituency was a large one bordering seven other constituencies.

She said that the centre of excellence will be of benefit to Claremont and surrounding communities as persons had to travel for up to an hour-and-a-half to access health care at the St Ann's Bay Hospital, which can be detrimental in cases of emergency.

Residents of the area also spoke of the importance of having the centre in the community.

"Mi feel good. Sometimes the fare to go St Ann's Bay, people can't find it; it more easier for me," Whitney Matthews told the Jamaica Observer.

"We all appreciate it," stated another resident, Elizabeth Lewis.

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