The Government is spending some $500 million to improve hospitals islandwide for the 2013/14 fiscal year. Story Highlights The improvements form part of efforts to transform the nation into a health hub in the Caribbean and the Americas, under the country’s National Development Plan, Vision 2030 Jamaica. The four institutions are: the Santa Cruz Health Centre, St. Elizabeth; Isaac Barrant Health Centre, St. Thomas; Claremont Health Centre, St. Ann; and Darliston Health Centre, Westmoreland. Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, says the administration is spending some $500 million to improve hospitals islandwide for the 2013/14 fiscal year.This is being complemented by similar work earmarked for approximately 100 health centres across the country, at a cost of some $400 million.The projects are part of the Government’s 2013/14 strategic priorities, focusing on human capital development, with emphasis on enhancing and strengthening primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare.Speaking on October 11, at a re-dedication ceremony for the Annotto Bay Hospital in St. Mary, which was refurbished at a cost of over $90 million, Dr. Ferguson said the improvement works form part of efforts to transform the nation into a health hub in the Caribbean and the Americas, under the country’s National Development Plan, Vision 2030 Jamaica.Vision 2030 Jamaica seeks to position the island to attain developed country status and, in the process, make it the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.The Minister also highlighted work to develop four Centres of Excellence to provide enhanced primary healthcare, which he said is “going extremely well”.The four institutions are: the Santa Cruz Health Centre, St. Elizabeth; Isaac Barrant Health Centre, St. Thomas; Claremont Health Centre, St. Ann; and Darliston Health Centre, Westmoreland.Dr. Ferguson said, however, that while much is being done to improve the sector’s infrastructure and human resources, there is also need to improve the health of the beneficiaries.He noted that Jamaica has been party to Protocols and Conventions, aimed at decreasing by 25 per cent, the number of avoidable deaths due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), by 2025.Pointing out that 70 per cent of deaths in Jamaica are attributable to NCDs, such as diabetes, cancer, asthma, and hypertension, the Minister contended that efforts at reducing their prevalence “is a major task for our country”.Dr. Ferguson cited the decision to, among other things, legislate the Public Health (Tobacco) Regulations 2013, effective July, maintaining that this is a “pro-health” position by the Ministry and, by extension the Government, rather than an anti-smoker campaign.The Minister argued that tobacco smoking is “clearly recognized” as the worst of the four commonest risk factors associated with the prevalence of NCDs. The others, he pointed out, include: excessive use of alcohol, improper diet, and lack of physical activity.Rehabilitation of the 146-year-old Annotto Bay Hospital was spearheaded by the Ministry to repair structural damage resulting from Hurricane Sandy’s passage in October 2012.Refurbishing work was done on the female medical, paediatric, and maternity wards; Accident and Emergency unit, doctors’ and nurses’ quarters, and porters’ lodge; kitchen and laundry room, and the roadway was repaired. These were complemented by the provision of a new ambulance.Funding was provided by a wide cross section of public and private sector stakeholders. Chief among these were: the National Health Fund (NHF); Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund; Japanese Embassy in Jamaica; and the RJR Communications Group. A significant number of community organizations and persons also contributed to the cause.