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Tufton sees silver lining for healthcare out west

Published:Monday | December 14, 2020 | 12:05 AMAdrian Frater/News Editor
Dr Christopher Tufton.
Dr Christopher Tufton.


While western stakeholders are not taking kindly to the news that the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH), which has been operating below capacity since being hit by a toxic- fumes issue in 2016, will not be restored to full service for at least another year, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton is nonetheless seeing a silver lining on the horizon.

Responding to concerns raised at a Gleaner Editors’ Forum, which was staged in conjunction with the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Friday, the health minister confirmed that completion of the ongoing restoration exercise, which should have ended this month, has been further extended.

Bed-space Boost

However, Tufton said when the restoration is finished and the new children and adolescent hospital, which is under construction, is completed, St James will have more hospital bed space than anywhere else in the Caribbean.

“The building of the new hospital (children and adolescent), which is being done by a Chinese contractor and is totally separate from what is going on at CRH, that building, which is already paid for, will offer another 250 beds, and operation theatres, and so on,” said Tufton in explaining the additional bed count, with CRH already having a 400-bed space. “So, what will happen, ultimately, is that St James will have the highest concentration of hospital beds, specialist services, and medical staff anywhere, not only in Jamaica, but in the Caribbean.”

Tufton also noted that while many of the services formerly offered when CRH was fully functional have been relocated to the Mt Salem Clinic and the Falmouth Hospital, CRH remains functional and continues to offer some much-needed services.

“From January 2020 to November 2020, there were 10,331 admissions at CRH and 10,355 discharges, when compared to the same period in 2019. January to November, they had 12,000 admissions and just over 12,000 discharges,” said Tufton. “Many factors have contributed to the difference of about 2,000. There have been some relocation services at Falmouth, but nevertheless, work has gone into addressing patient care. The renal unit had 9,501 dialysis sessions done between January and November 2020, compared to the same number, 9,523, for January to November in 2019.”

“In terms of cancer care, oncology, 2,393 patients were treated in the new oncology suite which was built out and opened in that period. I could go on … maternal statistics in terms of babies born, and so on; and the statistics in accident and emergency; the number of gunshot wounds and trauma cases stabilised and lives saved. We have to be careful not to give an impression that nothing is happening at CRH, because that would be a disservice to the persons who work every day to provide those services,” added Tufton.

With the Professor Archibald McDonald-led independent oversight committee that is monitoring the restoration work at the CRH, recently giving the last of several completion deadlines that will not be met, Tufton was not prepared to provide any new timeline.

“I have been on record giving so many timelines, so forgive me if I am fearful of giving another one,” said Tufton, who admitted to getting faulty information from the local technical people, which has caused him to be looking outside of Jamaica for the required expertise. “ What I am prepared to say is that there have been too many missed timelines, based on advice I have been given. That is why I am convinced that, more experienced capacity, as it relates to building out hospitals, is needed.”