MORE than 100,000 people from Clarendon will benefit from the recently renovated Chapelton Community Hospital after experiencing inconvenience while seeking medical attention at other facilities in the parish for the last four years.
The renovation project, which was funded by Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund, Push Start Foundation and the National Health Fund at approximately $309 million, included the replacement of heavily infested termite floor and roof, building of doctor's offices, asthma bay, triage and waiting areas and a 20-bed ward.
Additionally, the hospital, which has been in service for the last two weeks, will begin 24-hour operation come January.
Speaking at the reopening ceremony of the hospital and launch of the Compassionate Care Programme on Tuesday, Member of Parliament for Clarendon North Central Robert Nesta Morgan said the facility will strengthen economic development in the parish.
"The people of North Central Clarendon are thankful as the Chapelton Community Hospital is the heartbeat of our town. Our heart is beating again. In a health emergency, one minute can save a life. No longer will we all have to take the long journey to May Pen to get emergency medical health," he said.
"Over the last several years we have had a new hardware store, new supermarket, we've renovated the police station and we are doing work in the constituency but what was missing was the heartbeat. This hospital has brought people from all walks of life. While the health aspect of the hospital is important, the hospital is a centripetal force in drawing people to the community who can improve our economic prospects," he added.
He noted that residents from more than 100 communities will benefit, including Summerfield, Thompson Town, Mocho, Frankfield, Kellits, Croft's Hill, Nine Turns, Blackwoods, and Smithville.
Meanwhile, some residents from Chapelton, who spoke with the Jamaica Observer, said they are relieved as they now have easier access to health care.
One woman, who gave her name as Marlene, said it was very challenging traversing from Chapelton to May Pen Hospital to get medical care for her 85-year-old father.
"It did hard, hard, hard, because we haffi go May Pen, especially if there was an emergency. A nuff time we even have sickness especially mi father and when they couldn't provide a certain service they send you to another facility in Kingston. I am elated that it's open because I live very close to it," said the woman who has been a resident in the community for 40 years.
Eighty-one-year-old Hazel Brown who has been living there for 50 years was also pleased.
"This is the go-to facility for me. I am very happy because I can see people here are willing to help. If I need my medication or a doctor's help, I have no problem," she said.
Derrick Baker, 75, added, "It is a good thing, it has been closed for a long time. We had to fight to go to May Pen if there was any health issue and even at health centre at Summerfield, it was very frustrating especially when raining, so it's nice we have it back."
In the meantime, Prime Minister Andrew Holness urged the residents to take better care of their health so as to avoid seeking care at the hospital.
"It is important that the next generation of Jamaicans who are coming and the current generation of Jamaicans who are with us now understand that the solution is not just the hospital, the solution is how to avoid the hospital by being healthy," he said.
"We are and we were the pioneers of primary health care putting people into the communities to get the better health-care practices actually in practice in daily life. We have not enhanced the model as much as we should and we have not built hospitals as much as we should, but this Administration is changing. We are making massive investments in the health infrastructure. Our health is in our own hands not in the hands of the doctors or the nurses," he added.