Gifts can bol­ster health sec­tor

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS -

JA­MAICA RE­CEIVES an­nual do­na­tions of roughly $3 bil­lion for the health sec­tor. In­creas­ingly, strug­gling economies are de­pend­ing on do­na­tions to meet press­ing health-care needs, for they lack the in­ven­tory of med­i­cal equip­ment and sup­plies to di­ag­nose, treat and re­ha­bil­i­tate pa­tients.

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) es­ti­mates that up to 80 per cent of med­i­cal equip­ment in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries is funded or do­nated by in­ter­na­tional donors and for­eign govern­ments.

While ex­plor­ing op­tions to achieve sus­tain­able fund­ing for the health sec­tor, Fourth Floor par­tic­i­pants re­vealed that do­na­tions to the health-care sys­tem could be sig­nif­i­cantly higher.

“The good­will is there. I can at­test to it. No week goes by with­out some group or some in­di­vid­ual over­seas com­ing to us,” said Wayne Chen, chair­man of the South­ern Re­gional Health Au­thor­ity (SHA).

“We could double the do­na­tions if the sys­tem is ra­tio­nalised,” sug­gested Howard Mitchell, who heads the Healthy Life­style and Well­ness Foun­da­tion.

Giv­ing a rough fore­cast, Mitchell be­lieves “we can re­duce the bud­getary ex­pen­di­ture to the health sec­tor by $6 bil­lion within a year, by sim­ply ra­tio­nal­is­ing the do­na­tions struc­ture”.


The foun­da­tion was es­tab­lished by the Min­istry of Health dur­ing the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion in 2015 and Mitchell has the task of giv­ing struc­ture to the ideas em­bod­ied in the move­ment to­wards greater health.

“I think it is a fan­tas­tic idea,” he of­fered, while ex­plain­ing how the foun­da­tion will help to pro­mote the con­cept of a high-per­form­ing health-care sys­tem for the 24 hos­pi­tals and more than 200 health cen­tres.

One of the com­po­nents of the foun­da­tion’s work is to es­tab­lish a more tar­geted and holis­tic re­sponse to do­na­tions. Guide­lines for do­na­tions will en­sure that they are prop­erly trans­ported, stored, sorted and de­liv­ered to the re­cip­i­ents.

Ap­proved by the pre­vi­ous Cabi­net but never im­ple­mented, Mitchell and his team will now im­ple­ment the min­istry’s gift pol­icy, which in­cludes es­tab­lish­ing a ba­sic needs list of the health-care fa­cil­i­ties. The foun­da­tion has been ac­corded char­i­ta­ble duty-free sta­tus and will have its own cus­toms bro­ker so that goods shipped di­rectly to the foun­da­tion will be cleared from the wharves free of duty.


While do­na­tions are given with good­will and best in­ten­tions, some­times gifts do not meet spe­cific needs, and of­ten come with other prob­lems, such as be­ing close to ex­piry date, in­struc­tions writ­ten in a for­eign lan­guage, or equip­ment with­out man­u­als to op­er­ate them.

Mitchell said con­struc­tion of a web­site is un­der way and is de­signed to in­form po­ten­tial donors of the needs of the sec­tor.

“We will go to the re­gions and es­tab­lish a ba­sic needs list, and we will put this on the web­site. We will re­quire the re­gions to let the foun­da­tion know when they are get­ting do­na­tions so we can co­or­di­nate it.”

Private-sec­tor rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Ali­cia Foster, vi­cepres­i­dent of Guardian Life, sug­gested that more needed to be done by the in­sti­tu­tions to en­gen­der con­fi­dence.

“Hos­pi­tals need a to­tal re­struc­tur­ing of their man­age­ment sys­tems, in­ven­tory con­trols, en­sur­ing greater ef­fi­ciency and more op­ti­mal use of the lim­ited re­source they have. It will en­cour­age greater pub­licpri­vate part­ner­ships be­cause the private part­ners will feel more con­fi­dent that the money they spend and the gifts they give will not be abused but will be put to good use.”


The other im­por­tant com­po­nent of the foun­da­tion’s work in­volves pro­mot­ing a cul­ture of well­ness. A re­cent Gleaner-com­mis­sioned sur­vey found that 68 per cent of Ja­maicans are now do­ing some form of ex­er­cise, rang­ing from walk­ing to swim­ming. A to­tal of 95 per cent of the per­sons sur­veyed in Septem­ber by John­son Re­search Ser­vices Lim­ited said it was im­por­tant for them to re­main healthy.

This cul­ture of fit­ness is be­ing em­braced by the cur­rent health min­is­ter, Dr Christo­pher Tufton, who aims to in­spire fel­low Ja­maicans by him­self jog­ging around town.

As he eases into im­ple­men­ta­tion mode, Mitchell said: “We are go­ing to es­tab­lish walk­ing trails, and en­cour­age peo­ple to eat prop­erly. Fen­ton Fer­gu­son started it and we will con­tinue.”

He added: “We need a cam­paign. There is the in­cli­na­tion, and we need to re­in­force the will, and then we need to get the reg­u­lar­ity in there.”

Agree­ing with the mer­its of mount­ing a na­tional cam­paign to pro­mote and strengthen the idea of a healthy pop­u­la­tion, ac­tu­ary and risk man­ager Britta Hay of­fered this: “Peo­ple look at their fixed re­sources and say main­te­nance is im­por­tant. Well, keep­ing a healthy life­style is like main­te­nance of your most im­por­tant re­sources, which is the peo­ple who are work­ing for the coun­try.”


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