Issa Trust Foundation and partners gift $57 million in medical supplies
Paul Issa, chairman of Issa Trust Foundation (second left) makes a presentation to Dr Christopher Tufton, health and wellness minister(centre). Looking on (from left) are Eric Clarke, WRHA chairman; Howard Mitchell, Issa Trust board member; and St Andrade Sinclair,WRHA regional director. (Photos: Anthony Lewis)

NEGRIL, Hanover — Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has lauded the Issa Trust Foundation and Partners for World Health for contributing approximately $57 million in medical supplies to the country's health-care system.

“I really want to commend the Issa Trust Foundation for their ongoing efforts. I am told that over 17 years [they have given] over US$40 million of contribution. This is something to celebrate and recognise the efforts that have gone into building out this very impressive contribution over the years,” said Tufton during a press conference at Couples Negril on Friday to mark the donation which was made in December.

“My understanding is that we are benefiting from $57 million in supplies to the North Eastern Regional Health Authority [NERHA] and to Western Regional Health Authority [WRHA] — and that includes PPE, medical supplies and equipment,” the minister added.

The donation came in the form of a 40-foot container that included oxygen concentrators, approximately 400,000 KN95 surgical masks, face shields, approximately 12,000 isolation gowns, 2,888 gallons of bleach, sanitisers, wipes, neonatal patient monitors, lab coats, lab supplies and gloves.

Foundation Chairman Paul Issa said it started out small in 2005 and has since expanded. He disclosed that apart from education, the WRHA and NERHA are the main focus. Issa noted that while it could be more, he was pleased with the contribution that the foundation has made over the years.

For his part, board member Howard Mitchell said the challenges of the day are too great to be managed by the State alone.

“The days when you could say, 'Let the Government do it' are gone. We need [concerted] action by all the agents in the country,” stated Mitchell who is former chairman of the National Health Fund (NHF).

Noting that Jamaica currently benefits from approximately $3-4 billion per year in charity from international organisations, Mitchell argued that this could be doubled if the health ministry adopted a strategy of clearly identifying “what we need“ rather than “what we think we need”.

In the meantime, while donations are welcome, Dr Tufton said staffing remains the greatest hurdle.

“The biggest challenge in public health going forward is the people that operate and respond to the needs of public health. And it is not a Jamaican problem, it is a global problem,” he stated.

He cited the difficulty in finding local staff for the oncology department at Cornwall Regional Hospital in St James and St Joseph Hospital in Kingston, and having to resort to hiring individuals from overseas to operate and service the huge machines.

As a means of overcoming the challenges the minister pointed to the importance of public-private partnerships, saying these should include members of the Diaspora.

“My challenge to entities like Issa Trust is that we have to find a way to coordinate around training and building capacity. Whether it is through exchanges between entities abroad versus public health here, whether it is through contractual arrangements…we are going to have to start becoming creative so that when we build out these institutions we are able to man them, to staff them and operate them. It has to start now. There is a lot in store now in terms of the challenges going forward, and we look forward to the partnerships to expand and make it work,” said Tufton.

Dr Christopher Tufton, health and wellness minister (left) is indialogue with Howard Mitchell, Issa Trust board member
Paul Issa, chairman of Issa TrustFoundation
BY ANTHONY LEWIS Observer writer

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