Health sector shifting focus from COVID-19
Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton (centre); Southern Regional Health Authority'sSenior Project Manager Damion Senior (left); and Mandeville Regional Hospital's Chief Executive OfficerAlwyn Miller (right) on a tour of the facility's $38-million roof project. (Photos: Gregory Bennett)

MANDEVILLE, Manchester – Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton says the health sector must shift its focus to include other critical areas which have been cast in the shadows due to the attention being given to the country's COVID-19 response.

Speaking during an inspection tour of Mandeville Regional Hospital's $38-million roof repair project on last week, Tufton said the past year and half was spent focusing on COVID and this might cause other important public health areas to suffer.

“Over the last 18 months or so, we have spent a lot of time just being [focused] on COVID-19 [and] rightfully so [as] there is a clear and present threat and it continues to be a threat. However, if we are not careful, we lose sight of some of the other very important aspects of public health,” said Tufton.

“We lose sight of the need to preserve our infrastructure. We lose sight to motivate, enhance and encourage the people who work…We lose sight of those who are not being affected by COVID-19,” he added.

Tufton argued that the focus on COVID-19 has been at the expense of other areas in health care.

“If you look at the number of patients in former years… who have visited our public health institutions and have been cared for in areas like chronic diseases — hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes — and the health centres that are out there that have had to treat with [patients] on a monthly basis, or the primary health-care nurse that has had to visit them (patients) in their homes to give the advice... The reality is that COVID-19 has created to some extent, and in some instances to a large extent, a dislocation and disruption of that routine response,” he explained.

“Patients in some instances needing that routine care have been neglected and some would have suffered the consequences of that,” Tufton added who also toured the Lionel Town Hospital for the signing of a perimeter fence project valued at $38.9 million and phase two of the Chapelton Hospital valued at $112 million.

He said the health ministry has commenced an assessment of the health sectors' infrastructure, treatment, equipment and staff.

“I have decided to visit a number of our hospitals across the country in light of the slight lull in our COVID numbers and shift a little of our focus from a sort of COVID response, as important as that is and will continue to be,” said Tufton.

TUFTON… if we are not careful,we lose sight of some of theother very important aspects ofpublic health.
BY KASEY WILLIAMS Observer staff reporter kaseyw@jamaicaobserver.com

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