MANDEVILLE, Manchester — The first phase of a $100-million project to transform health clinics into national centres of excellence in health care officially kicked off Tuesday last, when health ministry officials signed off on the contract for work to begin at the Santa Cruz health facility.
The centre is one of four targeted by the Ministry of Health as the Government moves to improve the level of health care offered at the primary level in order to encourage persons with non-critical illnesses to use their local health centres, instead of hospitals.
The other three facilities to be upgraded through a range of additional services and equipment are Darliston Health Centre in Westmoreland, the Claremont facility in St Ann and Isaac Barrant Health Centre in St Thomas.
The contract signing, which took place during a tour of the Percy Junor Hospital in Manchester, means work can now begin on Phase One of the project, which is valued at $25 million. Phase Two is projected to cost some $76 million.
"Centres of Excellence will allow persons to experience what's happening at the big areas. We are to increase their offerings. We will have diagnostic services so persons don't believe that the only place you can go for treatment is the hospital... It's costing less to treat persons at the primary level," health minister Fenton Ferguson said, while addressing health workers and members of the media after the tour.
The contract signing fullfils a promise made by Ferguson in July 2012, during the 2012/13 sectoral debate in the House of Representatives.
At the time, Ferguson outlined the criteria for selection of the centres. "First, they must be in a location that is accessible and is likely to remain accessible and open for business, even in the event of a natural disaster. Second, they must be at least a Type III centre, which already has a fairly good infrastructure. The reason for this readily suggests itself, as it is not the intention to spend all of the available resources on infrastructural improvements," the minister explained.
He added that the centres must themselves have the physical space, or be expandable, in order to accommodate any needed additional infrastructure. He said the health centres chosen should also serve a large geographical area.
"We will expand the waiting areas and make them more customer friendly. We will focus on offering health promotion and education programmes. We will upgrade the diagnostic services to support screening and treatment of patients, and dental services will be offered. Efficient and effective pharmacy services will also be available," Ferguson said.
The minister told the House of Representatives last year that the number of health professionals working in these centres of excellence are expected to increase and that a web-based electronic Health Information System is to be introduced. This, he said, would establish the platform for tele-medicine services.
The opening hours of the centres will also be extended.