Municipalities seek increase in mobile health services
Shanique Spence, enrolled assistant nurse at the National Health Fund, performing a blood pressure check on Britney Tulloch in this May 17, 2023 file photo. A Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation resolution says providing consistently free mobile health care would be the most serious step in preventing and managing non-communicable diseases in Jamaica.

A number of rural municipal corporations have joined the appeal by the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) for the introduction of more mobile health-care facilities to increase access to public health services.

The resolution, which urged the council that, "to supplement the work of health centres mobile health-care units be established, to among other things, provide laboratory services and nutrition counselling to supplement the work of heath centres", was passed by the KSAMC in February.

The resolution was first tabled in the KSAMC by Councillor Eugene Kelly (Whitfield Town Division) and seconded by his colleague, Councillor Charmaine Daniels (Allman Town Division) and approved by the council in February, after which it was circulated to the other 13 municipal corporations and the Portmore municipality.

According to the resolution, "providing consistently free mobile healthcare would be the most serious step in preventing and managing non-communicable diseases in Jamaica". It urged the KSAMC to ensure that it is circulated to the ministries of health and local government as well as other municipal corporations.

So far, at least eight municipal corporations — Clarendon, Hanover, Portland, St Catherine, St Elizabeth, St James, St Mary, and Trelawny — have expressed full support for the proposal.

However, the St Mary Municipal Corporation said its support is reliant on the programme not being specific to Kingston and St Andrew, "as all parishes, especially in the rural areas, can benefit from such service".

The KSAMC is, however, expecting the support of the majority of the 14 municipal corporations for the introduction of the health-care units to supplement the work of the health centres.

The resolution noted that Jamaica has high rates of non-communicable diseases that cause significant burden on the health-care system, and that 70 per cent of deaths are caused by non-communicable diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and chronic lower respiratory diseases.

"Most persons cannot afford the cost of diagnostic and screening tests, which would allow for early detection and prevention of serious illnesses. Mobile health care would be able to make it more convenient for persons to access health care in their communities, on weekends, for example, and change the approach in health-care delivery from the patient seeking out the care, to the healthcare workers seeking out the patients," the resolution stated.

It also pointed out that Kingston and St Andrew accounts for approximately 25 per cent of the population, and reducing the number of non-communicable diseases in the Corporate Area would significantly reduce the national numbers.

It also insisted that successive governments have not sufficiently invested in primary health care, and so the local boards of health must play a crucial role.

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior writer

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