MONTEGO BAY, St James — SINCE the inception of the Atlanta/Montego Bay Sister Cities Annual Health Mission in 1993, hundreds of citizens, including 70-odd-year-old Kathleen Johnson, have been relying on the team of medical professionals for health care.
For Johnson, waiting a few hours in line to be attended to is well worth the wait.
"I have been coming to the health fair for the past 19 years and it has helped me so much. I had problems with my eyesight and the doctor tested my eyes and gave me glasses. I was also experiencing some pains and they gave me medication that helped," she told the Observer West on Monday, as she waited patiently to see a member of the medical team.
"May God bless them and keep them and I pray they can continue to help us poor people," she remarked.
Hector Myers, a resident of Hanover who has been benefiting from the health mission since 2010, says that the medical team has been very hospitable.
"I came here for the first time two years ago and I received reading glasses from the doctor. They really treat you good and they try to talk to you to figure out if anything is wrong. I did a medical for my kidney and they gave me medication for what turned out to be a minor problem. I have to give thanks to them," he emphasised.
The medical team has been coming to the island annually as part of the Montego Bay/Atlanta Sister Cities Health Mission, which emerged from the 1972 twinning of the cities of Montego Bay and Atlanta. The partnership has blossomed over the years into an annual health fair, which is held at the St John's Methodist Community Action Centre at Humber Ave in Montego Bay.
A total of 42 medical specialists, including dentists, ophthalmologists, gynaecologists, paediatricians, podiatrists and general practitioners; nurses and non-medical volunteers, participated in the latest fair which began on Monday and ended yesterday.
Councillor for the Spring Gardens Division Richard 'Barry' Solomone said the contribution that the mission has made to health care in western Jamaica is incredible.
"The significant value to health care for the western region that this health fair has provided is unbelievable. The doctors see more than 3,000 patients within the three days they were here. The level of professionalism that is displayed by the doctors as well as the medication that is supplied is insurmountable. The western region has definitely benefited from the health fair and I can only pray that they will continue," said Solomone.
This year the team from Atlanta brought in medical supplies worth more than US$175,000.
Chairman for the Atlanta/ Montego Bay Sister Health Mission Vin Martin expressed gratitude for the assistance of members of the Montego Bay team who have been assisting with the initiative.
"We can bring as many doctors and nurses as we want to, but unless we have the cooperation and the ground work laid here in Jamaica, nothing can happen. It is truly a Sister Cities partnership, one with which we are extremely excited and we look forward to continuing this relationship into the future," he emphasised.