A total of 13 health facilities across the island are to be upgraded and equipped under a major programme being undertaken by the Government to strengthen healthcare delivery and combat non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

            The facilities are Spanish Town, St. Ann’s Bay and May Pen Hospitals; and Greater Portmore, Old Harbour, St. Jago Park, St. Ann’s Bay, Brown’s Town, Ocho Rios, May Pen East, May Pen West, Mocho and Chapelton health centres.

            The work is being undertaken as part of the US$50-million ‘Health Systems Strengthening Programme’ being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).  The European Union (EU) has committed €10 million towards its implementation.

            Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, on Tuesday (January 28) officially launched the programme and signed a US$674,000 contract with firm Project Planning and Management Limited, to provide designs for the 13 institutions over the next 11 months.

            In addition to the physical upgrading of the three hospitals and 10 heath centres, the programme will provide for the purchase of new equipment to support the delivery of care, and the design and implementation of information systems.

            “Information systems for health promise collaborative care, cost control and the use of big data to diagnose and treat individual patients, while enhancing the overall management of the health of Jamaicans,” Dr. Tufton said at the ceremony held at the Courtyard by Marriott in New Kingston.

            He noted that approximately 800,000 Jamaicans are set to benefit from the design work and the construction and retrofitting to follow thereafter.

            The Minister said that the programme is the single largest investment in public health infrastructure in Jamaica in three decades and takes the country further along the path to fulfilling the World Health Organization (WHO) criteria for a well-functioning health system.

            The Health Systems Strengthening Programme has, as its objectives, the improvement of the health of Jamaica’s population by strengthening comprehensive policies for the prevention of NCD risk factors and for the implementation of a chronic care model with improved access to strengthened and integrated primary and hospital services networks that provide more efficient and higher quality care.

            It is being implemented at a time when some 70 per cent of deaths annually are NCD-related.

            Statistics show that one in three Jamaicans have hypertension; one in eight are living with diabetes; and one in two are overweight or obese, putting them at risk for NCDs.

            Meanwhile, IDB Team Lead for the ‘Health Systems Strengthening Programme’, Ricardo Perez-Cuevas, noted that the initiative is aimed at improving the health of the Jamaican people.

            “It is a novel and well-rounded programme that we are sure will become a significant reference for the Caribbean and Latin America,” he said.