Address by His Excellency Sir Patrick Allen, ON, GCMG, CD Governor-General of Jamaica at Andrews Memorial Hospital Nurses Week Award Banquet Terra Nova Hotel, Kingston Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 7:00 P.M.

“Delivering Quality, Serving Communities: Nurses Leading Care Innovation”


Good evening.  Lady Allen and I are delighted to be here with you tonight to share in your Awards Ceremony as part of your Nurses Week celebrations.  Many, if not all of you, know of my close association with Andrews Memorial Hospital, having served on the Board for a number of years.  So, it is as if I am among friends and family, and I feel right at home.

The Nursing Team is the backbone of the service delivery in the Health Sector, and that is why we are gathered here tonight to show our appreciation to the Nurses for their hard work, dedication and selflessness.

I have watched and listened with interest, the ‘conflicts’ which have developed over the past weeks, and which, ironically, have spilled over into this special Nurses Week.    We have heard of the two ‘breakaway’ organizations, and the olive branch proffered by the NAJ President with a plea to ‘return to the fold’.  We wait to see if that offer will be accepted. The impending impasse with the nurses at the UHWI regarding the increase in accommodation costs is another issue.  I sincerely hope these matters will be resolved with dispatch so that the nurses can continue their work without these distractions.

Delivery Quality, Serving Communities, Leading Care Innovation

The theme for Nurses Week 2009 comprises three very powerful areas – quality, service and innovation.

A healthy population is a prerequisite for human, social  and economic development.  I do not think it is by accident that the United Nations,  in realizing the critical role that health plays in the lives of nations,  have  designated three of the eight Millennium Development Goals to  family health care:

i)                Reduce child mortality – by 2/3 among children under 5 years. The objective of the Jamaican Government’s perinatal health programme is to reduce the perinatal mortality rate (PMR) by 10.0 per cent to 27 per 1000 live births.  Initiatives toward achieving this have included training in Newborn Resuscitation and an aggressive immunization programme.

ii)              Improve maternal health The targets are to reduce by ¾, the maternal mortality ratio and achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015.

At present Jamaica’s maternal mortality ratio is 95 per 100, 000 live births.  The goal is to reduce it to 25 per 100,000.

iii)            Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.  Targets being to:

a. Halt & reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.

b. Achieve by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for those who need it.

c. Halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.

In Jamaica, 1.5% of the population is infected with the HIV/AIDS virus.  In an effort to combat this disease, a National HIV Strategic Plan, 2007-2012 has been developed,  a National HIV Policy is in place, and each Government Ministry has been mandated to prepare a HIVAIDS Workplace Policy.

In order for Jamaica to achieve these Millennium Development and National goals, we will need the services of our nurses.  The technical competences, knowledge, innovativeness which you have mastered, are the elements that will help Jamaica to achieve these targets. 

In delivering quality health care, our nurses must provide people-centered, safe and high quality services that demonstrate a continual improvement and culturally appropriate processes.  However, providing this quality services has many challenges and it is the measure of the nurse who can successfully meet these challenges and display grace under fire. owever, The service that nurses deliver demand that you sometimes:

  • Give comfort to a grieving family that has lost their only child; comfort a murder victim’s family, or distraught parents whose child has just been badly injured by a drunken, careless, reckless driver.
  • Do CPR non-stop until help arrives.
  • Be able to lift three times your own weight.
  • Work 12-16 hours straight without missing a detail or crumpling your uniform.
  • Be in top mental condition at all times, often running on too little sleep and half eaten meals.
  • Keep faith and dedication in spite of the disappointments that may come.
  • Have six pairs of hands and two pairs of eyes.
  • Feed a family of five on a nurses’ paycheck.
  • Tell the symptoms of 100 diseases, and recite drug calculations.
  • Have phenomenal personal control and a sense of humour.
  • Read in the paper how nurses are insensitive and uncaring and are only doing a job.

I know all about the challenges that nurses face on a daily basis – I am married to a nurse!

As you discharge your duties in the delivery of integrated,  comprehensive and quality professional health care, I urge you to affirm your faith in the rights of the people you serve and in their dignity, worth and respect.  Continue to bring that special touch of understanding to those who are entrusted to your care, as you realize that all patients must be treated equally, as difficult as that may be.

It often means the same service given out to the sweet, quiet grandmother on the Female Ward who, is such a joy to serve,   and reminds you of your own grandmother, must be given to the cranky, miserable, demanding man in Bed 7 on the Male Ward, who can never be pleased, and who was surely sent to test your faith! 

In serving communities, nurses must be caregivers and counselors.  Your training has taught you to work with families and communities.  You must therefore be at the forefront in emphasizing and promoting healthy lifestyles and wholistic development at the individual and community levels.  This must be the message that you deliver in whatever area you serve, whether it be at the workplace,   in professional organizations, in service-oriented associations and organizations, or the Church.

People need to be reminded that they, to a large extent, are responsible for their health care.  In 1905, a little old lady told the world that “Disease is an effort of nature to free the system from conditions that result from a violation of the laws of health “ (Ministry of Healing).

That message was not lost because 32 years later, in 1937, Marcus Garvey declared, “All the disease there is in the world is a direct violation of the code of God in nature.  The people who are sick most – are ignorant of the laws of nature, and disobey the natural codes of God.”

We need to follow the Owner’s Manual and the blue print as set out by our Creator in His Word, so that we can prosper and be in health.

In leading care innovation, nurses need to provide sustainable examples for improving health outcomes, support and independence.  Changing demographic and health issues are making new demands on the health care system and nurses must be innovative in responding to the new dynamics.

There is concern that Jamaica’s maternal mortality ratio is decreasing too slowly with most of the deaths due to diabetes and cardiac disorders.  New strategies are therefore needed to improve maternal health care.

We now have the Influenza A-HINI virus to contend with and this has placed further stress on both the public and private health care system for which new and innovative strategies for patient care must be instituted.  Nurses therefore are faced with the threats from health care challenges.

They must now be innovative and see the opportunities which these threats present and develop initiatives in patient care that will strengthen the health system.

Commendation, Encouragement & Conclusion

Jamaican nurses are known worldwide as being the best, and other counties, particularly, in North America,   do no hesitate to recruit our nurses.  Thus, there is a chronic shortage of nurses and this adversely affects health care delivery.

I therefore want to encourage the nurses at Andrews Memorial Hospital and indeed at other public and private institutions, not to be too hasty to flee your country.  I know the lure of greener pastures and dollars is enticing but there is still much that you can help this country to accomplish.


I commend the nurses at the Andrews Memorial Hospital who continue to give excellent service.   Because of your work, this Hospital is known island wide as one of the best private hospitals in the country.  I encourage you “not to be weary in well-doing because in due season you will reap if you do not lose heart.”

Nurses, yours is a difficult task but I urge you to continue taking pride in giving your profession the best skills and talents that you have.  Continue to contribute to the growth of this nation and make it strong and dynamic.

Thank you and may God bless you all.