Health

Budding civil society, public sector partnership for patients' rights

Sunday, December 03, 2017

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THERE is an emerging partnership between civil society actors and public sector stakeholders to enhance maternal and child health in Jamaica while promoting patients' rights, thanks to a European Union-funded project.

The effort, titled 'Partnership for the Promotion of Patients' Rights in Maternal, Neonatal and Infant Health (MNIH)', last Wednesday hosted a workshop on patients' rights that attracted the participation of close to 80 individuals from entities, including Caribbean Vulnerable Communities, Fathers United for Change, the Jamaica Family Planning Association, and the St Elizabeth Women's Network, a release from the Women's Resource and Outreach Centre said.

They were joined by the Ministry of Health, the Child Development Agency (CDA), and the Jamaica Medical Students' Association, among others, to discuss patients' rights and chart a way forward in advocating for those rights.

“It is good that we can partner between government and civil society for such a critical issue,” said Rosalee Gage-Grey, head of the CDA.

“It is very important. I have been to several international conferences where the general consensus is that we all have to work together, and they (civil society) are a part of the way to ensure we carry out your duties effectively,” she added.

The workshop — hosted by project implementers The University of the West Indies Department of Community Health and Psychiatry and the Women's Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC) — came in the wake of reports of more than 100 complaints lodged with the health ministry in the first three months of the year about the health care system.

Of that number, only 13 per cent were reportedly resolved and five per cent closed. One per cent was referred, another one per cent was handled by the Medical Review Panel, and 80 per cent is still to be resolved.

At the same time, the release said an unacceptable number of women and children continue to die in Jamaica each year. The island's maternal death ratio was 89 per 100,000 live births in 2015, while the children under five death rate stood at 15.7 per 1,000 live births, also in 2015.

Nikeisha Sewell Lewis, executive director for WROC, said the emerging partnership is gratifying and timely given the enormity of the challenge being faced.

“We are excited because we know that nothing can be done with one organisation to create a social movement. We need the buy-in from the private sector, the public sector and the third sector — civil society — and on such a critical issue as maternal and child health. This is a not a woman issue, it is a Jamaica issue,” she said in the release.

The three-year project, the release said, is to strengthen patients' rights and improve the role and effectiveness of civil society in advocacy for MNIH. This is to be achieved through, among other things, research, the establishment of an inter-civil society organisation consultative forum, and an agreed framework to receive and resolve complaints.

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