Tufton to launch health-screening programme
Co-owner of Omega Medical Hospital Dr Dale Foster (centre) talks with (from left) his wife and co-owner Dr Sonja King Foster; Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton; Tourism Enhancement Fund Executive Director Dr Carey Wallace; and councillor for the Sheffield Division Garfield James.

NEGRIL, Westmoreland — As the nation's health sector continues to grapple with lifestyle-related diseases affecting a large cross section of the population, the Ministry of Health and Wellness is to launch a programme that is focused on screening. The aim is to provide an avenue for Jamaicans to know their health status so they can pursue early intervention.

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, who pointed to the importance of public-private partnerships, said he will be launching the programme during his sectoral debate on May 3.

"We are going to be partnering both with the private sector [and] civil society in trying to get Jamaicans to know what their health status is, because that is the starting point of adjusting in order to manage. Don't wait until you fall down with a stroke to know that your cholesterol level is out of whack," stated Dr Tufton who did not give details on how the programme will work.

However, Dr Tufton, who was addressing the official launch of Negril's first multimillion-dollar private hospital — Omega Medical Hospital — on Friday in Negril, argued that private institutions such as Omega and Hospiten in St James are welcomed to be a part of the programme.

"Because if we have truly learned the lessons from COVID, we really [should] buy into creating a gentler society where we indeed become our brother's keeper, recognising that on our own we are vulnerable. And that means as public sector we are vulnerable, and as private sector... we are still going to be vulnerable — and that partnership must take place," stated Dr Tufton.

The country currently has a population of 2.8 million and the public health sector — both primary (hospitals) and secondary (health centres or clinics) — sees approximately three million patients per year, and as such the minister is encouraging the private sector to take some of the load. He said this would reduce the waiting time and challenges faced with limited resources.

"For that reason, I welcome every opportunity to have partnerships in providing health care," he said.

The Omega Medical Hospital, which had a soft opening on January 20, opened its doors to the public on December 1 last year. It was established by Jamaican-born medical doctor Dale Foster, who has been serving the Negril community for the past 25 years, and his Barbadian wife Sonja King Foster, who is also a doctor.

The 14-bed facility, which is equipped with a state-of-the-art operating theatre, radiology department, X-ray department, laboratory and a pharmacy, will be providing primary- to tertiary-level health-care services to communities in and around Negril.

BY ANTHONY LEWIS Observer writer

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