Gov’t hiring 1,300 new community health aids

Approximately 1,300 new community health aids are being employed by the Government to strengthen the country’s public health system under a new strategic framework designed to ensure that the population can live their normal lives despite the presence of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton outlined in Parliament yesterday what he termed the “new normal” which, he said, is underpinned by three strategic goals:

1. Protecting the population from harmful health outcomes, particularly vulnerable communities;

2. Ensuring productive engagement of individuals within the society; and

3. Creating an environment where citizens can participate in meaningful social activities that enrich their lives and the lives of all with whom they interact.

“Within this new strategic framework, the prioritisation of public health and the re-introduction of an “everyone counts” approach to policy must form part of the way in which we must now live and operate,” Dr Tufton said.

“On our part, the Ministry of Health and Wellness has already begun to build out an infrastructure that will allow us to play our role within the “new normal”. This approach is anchored in the International Health Regulation standards for public health systems and will involve the strengthening of systems in eight areas:

1. Legislation and policy

2. Coordination

3. Surveillance

4. Points of entry

5. Laboratory

6. Human resources

7. Health facilities prepared[ness] and response

8. Risk communication and community engagement.

“In implementing these plans, the ministry has already received approval from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service for the employment of an approximate additional 1,300 community health aids,” Dr Tufton told legislators.

He said the regional health authorities have already begun the process of recruitment and the new community health aids will augment the existing cadre of approximately 2,300 currently in the field, bringing the total complement to approximately 3,900 across the island.

“In our ‘new normal’, active field surveillance using methods such as contact tracing, community education and health information, and the monitoring of persons in quarantine and in isolation will be important components of the public health response. The addition of these officers, therefore, will enable the Government to continue our efforts in early detection and strengthen our capacity to contain and manage any infections once they are identified,” Tufton explained.

He also said “in the spirit of ensuring that everyone counts in this, and all our public health efforts, we have begun our engagement with the private sector to ensure that the most appropriate protocols for our return to work arrangements can be put in place”.

Additionally, Tufton said the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce and trade unions “have all come to the table in a spirit of partnership to ensure that we are able to build robust protocols that protect the worker, protect the clients, and ensure overall improvement in productivity”.

He said the public health authorities are not anti-business as they appreciate the need for viable and sustainable economic activity to underpin the well-being of the society.

“At the same time however, as this experience with COVID-19 has shown us and the world, economics without a healthy population is unsustainable. As such, the new normal must recognise that everyone counts – not just as individuals, societies or countries but as an integrated whole that supports the health and well-being of all,” Tufton said.

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