Hopes for 30-bed wing expansion at Sir John Golding Centre dashed, at least for now
Residents and staff of the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre.

Hopes for the construction of a 30-bed wing to increase intake of adults at the iconic Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre, St Andrew, appears to have been dashed, at least for now, but senior medical officer (SMO) of the centre, Dr Rory Dixon remains undaunted.

Stakeholders on whom the plans were relying had all but disappeared shortly after the launch of a building drive in January 2020, apparently because of the COVID-19 pandemic which upended the world that year, said Dr Dixon.

"We are trying to re-engage them [stakeholders]. I am not calling any names but I haven't had any feedback at all. There was nothing binding because final costing and all of that wasn't worked yet [at the time of the launch]. We were just taking advantage of the interest that existed but COVID reset all of that, so we still have it on the wish list," the SMO told the Jamaica Observer on Friday.

During the official launch of the building drive officials had indicated that part of the funding to facilitate the expansion of the facility was to be donated from an undisclosed percentage of profits from the new orthopaedic division – Bioprist Pharmaceuticals Orthopedic Solutions.

Dixon said the expansion was still much-needed, given that the centre has capacity for only 28 adults and 30 children, while there was a waiting list of 30 individuals.

Asked when the new wing would likely materialise, Dixon said "not anytime soon" but added that the centre in the interim was conducting retrofitting to be able to meet some of the demand for bed spaces.

"As a short-term measure, we are in the process of converting a part of the paediatric block to accommodate 10 more beds because we haven't been having many paediatric admissions. That is in progress but ultimately we still need to expand," the SMO said.

"The minister [Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton] signed off on it last month so hopefully by next January we will have that in place," Dixon told the Observer.

In the meantime, he said individuals who are on the centre's waiting list could only be admitted when a patient is discharged, thus creating space.

Dixon, on Friday, when asked what could spark change for the entity, was pragmatic in his response.

"Historically countries who invest a lot in things like this, you usually have somebody in politics, a relative, that's disabled; unless that's a reality then there isn't much interest in that field," he suggested.

"To be fair, to the Ministry of Health, they have been paying attention but it is still tied by the system and how things work," he added.

Said Dixon: "They say that Jamaica is supposed to be disabled-friendly by 2030. We are a far way from that, let's take public transportation, I don't think you can find one per cent of vehicles that are able to accommodate a wheelchair. Awareness and prevention is one of the most important things because the fact is that this can affect anybody."

The Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre (formerly the Mona Rehabilitation Centre) began as a centre for the treatment of persons suffering from polio in response to Jamaica's first and worst polio epidemic in 1954. It is the only integrated treatment and rehabilitation facility for the physically disabled in the English-speaking Caribbean.

Currently, the centre focuses on motor vehicle crash survivors, children born with congenital abnormalities, and gunshot victims. The institution is the only public health facility that caters to persons with amputations.

Dr Dixon noted that motor vehicle crash victims formed the bulk of the patients but that it was noticeable that gunshot victims "have been creeping up again [this year]".

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Senior rseporter dunkleya@jamaicaobserver.com

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