Tufton blasts critics over handling of health sector
ST JAMES, Jamaica — Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton has taken on critics who have criticised him and the government’s handling of the health sector.
“I say to those who are cynical, [and] critical that it is fine because ideas must contend but we must introduce some realism into those ideas as we debate them because people won’t take us seriously if we oversell or indeed become the prophet of doom and gloom,” he urged.
“Health care has to be cautiously debated and carefully argued because to politicise people’s lives is not such a good thing because it is very emotional. So, we are ready to debate and discuss but we want to do it in a way to make things better,” added Tufton.
The minister was addressing Thursday’s official reopening of the Cambridge Health Centre in St James which was renovated between April 2022 and January of this year.
While Tufton did not identify his critics, last week during a tour of health facilities in St James and a party meeting members of the opposition People’s National Party (PNP) raised concerns about the Cornwall Regional Hospital and the health sector in general.
“There was a gentleman in this parish recently who was giving a big speech and I appreciate the cut and thrust of democracy which is a healthy thing as long as we are respectful to each other. And ideas must contend but somehow there is a [PNP] plan to make healthcare better and that the path that we are on has not served and is not serving us well enough,” relayed Tufton.
Conceding that neither he nor the programmes pursued are perfect, he noted that there is room for improvement. However he insisted that a lot has been accomplished.
“It is always a work in progress but what I am prepared to say is that the amount of resources that have been spent on public health, whether through direct facilities like this one or hospitals or through public-private partnerships or through outsourcing of services, those resources have never been spent in independent Jamaica and the impact that it has had on the people of Jamaica is yet to be fully realised,” argued Tufton. He described most of the work being done as transformational.
He pointed to his ministry’s recent placement of 12 pages of ads in search of more than 723 doctors as an example of the game-changing actions being taken.
He also spoke of the ministry’s transformational effort to digitise patient records and have them available within the health sector through an Internet network.
The minister also made reference to the Cornwall Regional Hospital and the Western Children Adolescent Hospital in St James, which are respectively under rehabilitation and construction, which will together provide more than 700 beds, the highest concentration in the Caribbean. In the end, both institutions combined will have more operating theatres, more doctors, more consultants and digitalisation, he boasted.
“I could say the same for Spanish Town where this year we will break ground floor a six-storey building. I could say the same for the University Hospital of the West Indies where the plans have been drawn up and ready for six floors. And, I could say the same thing for St Ann’s Bay and May Pen Hospitals and we are right here in Cambridge,” stated Tufton.
The renovated Cambridge Health Centre is now fully air-conditioned with a larger waiting area. About $61 million was spent on it.
“People can come and wait with more comfort. We cannot prevent waiting in our health system. There is nowhere in the world, including the developed world, where you go where you want service, you don’t sit down and wait. People are waiting in the UK, for example, for five, six hours. Read the reports. People are waiting in the US for four or five hours. There is a triage process just like we, where if you are not dying they say you have to wait. But I believe we can influence the quality of wait,” stated Tufton.
“People don’t have to sit on the floor when they wait. They must have a bathroom facility that they can go and use and flush the toilet and wash their hands. And indeed, if they want a cup of water or even a cup of tea, we must try and provide for them. There must be someone there to give them some comfort by answering any questions they have. It is a simple formula. That is what customer service is,” the minister added.
Improvements made to the Cambridge facility include an expanded car park area, a new sewerage system and an improved working space for staff.
Parish Manager for the St James Health Department, Lennox Wallace noted that in addition to Cambridge, other centres such as Catadupa, Flanker, Granville and Catherine Hall have been renovated with input from residents. Other facilities slated to get attention during this financial year are John’s Hall and Roehampton.
Wallace had high praise for the operator of the Cambridge Boys’ and Girls’ Club, Oral Spence for support provided to the clinic while it was under construction. Spence also donated several wheelchairs to the facility.
Wallace also revealed that, within a month, three of nine dental chairs ordered for the St James Health Department will be sent to Cambridge. St James has also benefited from new doctors recently employed within the system, he added, and this has resulted in Cambridge having a doctor on duty from Monday to Thursday of each week.