Two for the price of one!

In­no­va­tion, cre­ativ­ity high­lighted as key to im­prov­ing health care

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS -

CUT­TING COSTS through in­no­va­tion and cre­ativ­ity is one of the op­tions open to coun­tries like Ja­maica that are strug­gling to im­prove pub­lic ac­cess to ba­sic health-care ser­vices.

This was agreed by Fourth Floor pan­el­lists dur­ing a meet­ing to ex­plore op­tions to prop­erly fund pub­lic health care.

The well-re­cited prob­lems in the pub­lic health­care sys­tem in­clude the lack of func­tion­ing am­bu­lances to take pa­tients for test­ing and treat­ment, or to re­spond to ac­ci­dents and other emer­gen­cies. Some of these prob­lems are largely un­der-re­ported, yet, they have been beg­ging for in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions.

It is this in­no­va­tion and cre­ative think­ing which has re­sulted in the re­cent de­liv­ery of two spank­ing new am­bu­lances to the Lionel Town and Man­dev­ille hos­pi­tals, which fall un­der the um­brella of the South­ern Re­gional Health Au­thor­ity (SRHA).

Wayne Chen, chair­man of the SRHA, which cov­ers health-care fa­cil­i­ties in Manch­ester, Claren­don and St El­iz­a­beth, de­tailed how an in­ter­nally gen­er­ated idea re­sulted in the ac­qui­si­tion of the two am­bu­lances.

“We wrote to the con­trac­tor gen­eral and the Na­tional Con­tracts Com­mis­sion to get guide­lines on pro­cure­ment, and we bought two Hi­ace mini­vans,” he said.


Both ve­hi­cles were customised at a cost of $14 mil­lion, work­ing with Ja­maica Fi­bre Glass Com­pany to en­sure the mod­i­fi­ca­tions were done to world stan­dards.

In­stead of wait­ing for six months to have one am­bu­lance de­liv­ered from Ja­pan at the cost of $14 mil­lion, the am­bu­lances are cur­rently serv­ing the two com­mu­ni­ties.

Money was raised for the pur­chase and retrofitting of the ve­hi­cles through fees col­lected from in­sured pa­tients who use the hospi­tal fa­cil­i­ties and are en­cour­aged to swipe their cards when they seek treat­ment.

Recog­nis­ing the value of in­no­va­tion and the dra­matic ef­fect it could have if repli­cated through­out the sys­tem, the ques­tion was asked: “Who will take this idea fur­ther up the chain?”

“We have pho­tographed and doc­u­mented ev­ery step in the process and we have shared it. I spoke with the chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer and I have asked them to trans­fer all this in­for­ma­tion to the Min­istry of Health,” replied Chen.

Howard Mitchell, who heads the Healthy Life­style and Well­ness Foun­da­tion, is of the view that this type of in­no­va­tion should be im­me­di­ately uni­ver­sally adopted. While he sees some merit in de­cen­tral­i­sa­tion, he hailed the im­por­tance of cen­tral­i­sa­tion for other ser­vices.


“There are some economies of scale, man­age­ment and main­te­nance of equip­ment that you pick up by cen­tral­i­sa­tion,” he of­fered, while sug­gest­ing that pro­cure­ment could also be more ef­fi­cient with cen­tral­i­sa­tion.

The re­con­di­tioned am­bu­lances and SRHA’s com­mit­ment to in­no­va­tion have set the stage for greater leaps into cre­ativ­ity. What’s on the hori­zon for SRHA’s is the re­fur­bish­ing of oph­thal­mo­logic mi­cro­scopes.

Chen said the ex­perts have as­sured him that a re­fur­bished mi­cro­scope is as good as new, once cer­tain crit­i­cal com­puter parts are re­placed and the lenses are in shape, and the sweet­ener is that a re­fur­bished mi­cro­scope is half the price of a new one.

Once again, he has gone to the con­trac­tor gen­eral in or­der to pro­cure the parts di­rectly from the United States.

“We fig­ure we can save a cou­ple hun­dred thou­sand US dol­lars on equip­ment like this so, our tar­get is to find equip­ment at the low­est price,” said Chen.

We fig­ure we can save a cou­ple hun­dred thou­sand US dol­lars on equip­ment like this so our tar­get is to find equip­ment at the low­est price.



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