Tufton promises 1,000 surgeries over 10 months to clear backlog
Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton makes his contribution to the 2021/22 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has promised that special interventions will be made this year to mop up most of the backlog of surgeries in the public health system by conducting 1,000 operations over the next 10 months.

In his contribution to the 2021/22 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Tufton advised that those waiting the longest on the list for elective surgeries are people with cataract, oral, thyroid, and sinus cancers, Cholesteatomas (ENT), Pterygium Arthroplasty, and Undescended Testis, all of which were pushed by the COVID-19 crisis.

A breakdown of the number of people awaiting these surgeries, and length of wait so far was not available.

“Since March 2020, many hospitals have had to suspend the normal processing of elective surgeries, which has resulted in the extension of the length of time that persons wait for these operations, sometimes up to two years. One can only imagine the pain and suffering that those Jamaicans have to bear waiting for a procedure, but due to the COVID-19 priorities cannot get this procedure done,” Dr Tufton said.

He said the health authorities will be pushing for the 1,000-surgery target by working through the Foreign Affairs Ministry and overseas missions to have health-care professionals in the Diaspora, who visit Jamaica for special surgery sessions, be given access to hospital facilities and focus on patients who have been waiting the longest for elective surgeries.

Additionally, he said $300 million will be spent on repairs to, and maintenance of operating theatres to have them run more efficiently and for longer hours. Furthermore, the ministry intends to partner with private sector health facilities.

Meanwhile, Dr Tufton said total surgical operations increased to 55,461 last year compared to 52,115 in 2020, but this was still less than the 2016 - 2020 average of 71,942.

Also, 151,848 people were admitted to public hospitals, and 297,421 diagnostic imaging services including X-rays, CT scans and MRIs were done, while the National Public Health lab conducted 2,337,459 lab tests in 2021, an 18 per cent increase over the 2020, the minister noted.

At the same time, visits to public health facilities declined marginally by six per cent to 2,987,285 from 3,161,064 in 2020, and visits to health centres dipped slightly to 1,812,589 from 1,835,991 in 2020. Dr Tufton noted that the latter was still greater than the five-year average of 1,671,343 visits.

“We had 764,109 visits to public hospitals, when compared to 941,646 a year earlier. This represents a 19 per cent decline over 2020 figures and a 36 per cent decline over the five-year average of 1,189,734. This decrease in hospital visits was mainly due to the reduction in outpatient visits,” he outlined.

“The areas of reduction came as no surprise to us and we made strategic changes in our operations to ensure continuity of care for our patients and adequate infection prevention and control,” he said, pointing to the use of digital technology for continued care of patients previously seen in hospital outpatient clinics and health centres.

He said patients were also given longer appointments and prescriptions where possible, and that there were advancements in telemedicine and home delivery service for vulnerable patients.

BY ALPHEA SUMNER Senior staff reporter saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login


  1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper; email addresses will not be published.
  2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.
  3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.
  4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.
  5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed: advertising@jamaicaobserver.com.
  6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email: community@jamaicaobserver.com.
  7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy