REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL THE MOST HONOURABLE SIR PATRICK ALLEN ON, GCMG, CD AT TOUR OF PRINCESS MARGARET HOSPITAL, WEDNESDAY 16TH DECEMBER 2009 10:00 A.M.

Introduction

It is a pleasure for Lady Allen and me to visit with the staff and patients of the Princess Margaret Hospital on this, our second stop in a series of official visits. We consider these visits a very serious responsibility and a role that must be fulfilled earnestly.  So we sincerely appreciate your accommodating us and the hospitality extended to us since our arrival.

Keep the Hope alive

Christmas is the “season of goodwill” and the birth of a period of healing: physically, emotionally and spiritually.  During His time on earth, our Saviour exemplified a life of service to mankind particularly through the Healing Ministry:  He was a Physician (the Great Physician).  The Bible is replete with stories of hope and healing not only in the physical, but on a spiritual and emotional level. This expression of hope and healing is reflected in the work carried out at this institution.

Jamaicans are a “hopeful people” always hoping for a better tomorrow.  At the start of the Hurricane season we hoped and prayed that no storms or severe flood rains would affect Jamaica and indeed St. Thomas, and it turned out to be a good season.  Today it is the opposite, and we are hoping it will rain so the drought can end.  I believe if we keep hope alive the rains will come again.

Role of Health Care Practitioners

Sometimes given the work you do in mending broken people, everyone expects you to perform miracles. The physicians among you should be familiar with the Latin Phrase: ‘men’s, spiritus, corpus’ which suggests that the whole person, the healthy person, is the result of the mind, spirit and body functioning harmoniously under the care of three practitioners:

§  The pedagogue (teaching),

§  The pastor (nurturing)

§  The physician (healing).

In caring for people, all three professions are combined into the medical facility here at Princess Margaret.

I believe that doctors and nurses have a Medical Ministry to Humanity. Once a patient turns up at your office or sees you on the hospital ward, his/her life and future are in your hands.  They expect you to:

§  Listen,

§  Reassure

§  Understand

§  Be candid

§  Honesty,

§  Trustworthy and confidential in your delivery of patient care.

An understanding health care practitioner with excellent bedside approach is a definite balm to an ailing patient.  He/she assures the patient that things may not be as bad as they thought. We are all familiar with the old adage “Belief kills and belief cures.” If they “believe” in you, a large part of the problem is solved.  They trust you to follow your directives and “believe” they will be healed.  You are like Jesus to them!

So, physician’s have a duty to tell their patients when their illnesses or ailments are attributable to the patients’ own destructive habits. But it is critical not only to stop there, but offer support and positive recommendations in addressing the situation.

Health and Wellness

Health and wellness are inextricably linked to social and community development. These are characteristic features in more developed societies that have an integrated social policy structure.  Health and wellness have attracted the attention of government, policy makers and health professionals, due to the potential influence on human, social and economic development.  The health of the nation is the wealth of the nation! Health leads to happiness and health plus happiness equals wealth.  However, high incidence of chronic and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular illnesses could destabilize our development objectives.

The Ministry of Health in its National Strategic Plan 2006-2010 noted that for baseline year 2002, death associated with diseases of the respiratory and circulatory systems were 40.4% and 38.8% respectively for every 10,000 persons treated in our hospitals.  This was only slightly better than the 55.9% deaths associated with accidents and emergencies.  The trend is likely to continue, as baseline figures available for 2000 show that 25% of the population is considered overweight and another 19% obese.  The crime rate is unacceptably high and we are still not accepting the fact that we should take it easy on our roadways.

These figures paint a telling picture of a country that has deviated from its history and tradition for healthy eating and vigorous outdoor activity.  Instead, what we have is a nation that has adopted a sedentary lifestyle and eating and societal habits that are akin to other cultures.

When we contemplate the enormous amount of medical and financial resources which Jamaica spends on the treatment of chronic non-communicable diseases and accidents, we realise the situation is untenable given our limited resources.  Correcting the anomalies is therefore an important and necessary step, especially as the country deals with the stagnant global economy.  This will require a partnership between the various professional groups in the health sector and the wider society working to create a healthy environment by educating people how to take care of themselves.

Commendations

Despite the constraints, the health sector has performed creditably.  Jamaica is an example for many countries in areas such as the care and treatment of persons living with HIV/AIDS.  More persons have access to anti-retroviral drugs. The mother-to-child transmission of HIV has been significantly reduced. Jamaica now has a life expectancy of approximately 73 years and close to 90% of our children are immunized.

In 2001 the Princess Margaret Hospital was declared a ‘Baby-Friendly’ Hospital by three internationally recognized institutions – the United Nations Children Fund, World Health Organization and Pan-American Health Organization.   This was in response to the hospital’s policy of encouraging mothers to consistently breastfeed newborns for at least the first six months of their lives.  You can take credit for helping mothers to establish a god nutritional base for the growth of their children.

In July of this year, the staff exceeded their duties by bravely protecting patients in their care, when the facility was invaded by gunmen.  In addition to securing and protecting the integrity of the health care system, you anticipate adverse situations unrelated to the practice of medicine, and are ready for quick action if necessary.

I know that the levels of remuneration are not what many of our health professionals would like to see, and we would also like to see you receive higher wages.  You are qualified and hard working individuals whose services are in high demand in other countries.  We therefore welcome the fact that your commitment to Jamaica prompter you to remain to help build your country, by providing us with the critical health care services necessary for our development.   You are definitely what is right with Jamaica and I believe that together we will make Jamaica a healthier and stronger nation.

Conclusion

As you carry out your responsibilities with the utmost selflessness, I hope you have an incident free holiday season.  Thank you and best wishes to you and your family.