Private medical practitioners urged to partner with Gov’t

MONTEGO BAY, St James — As the Government scales down activities at health centres to reduce overcrowding, portfolio minister Dr Christopher Tufton has made an appeal to private medical practitioners in western Jamaica to accommodate patients who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 through a partnership.

“I want to use the opportunity to encourage doctors in western Jamaica to get information on this new method that we have engaged, and to apply and become part of that solution. So for western Jamaica, I want to encourage our western practitioners to sign on to this approach,” Dr Tufton urged.

He was speaking last week following a visit to Carlisle Inn, which Sandals Resorts International offered to the Government to be used as a quarantine centre in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He noted that Government will pay for those patients outsourced to private practitioners, and that the patients will still be entitled to benefit from medication through the National Health Fund.

“And what that will do, it will take the crowding out of some of our health centres plus give those individuals the opportunity to get care without the risk, because it is difficult to have social distancing within the clinics under normal circumstances,” the health and minister reasoned.

He underscored the need “to manage high-risk groups within the society”, such as “persons 65 and over, as well as persons with underlying conditions like hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and so on”.

“Those are the persons who tend to have the more severe cases of COVID-19, because of their compromised immune systems. And so part of the response by the ministry is to provide a protocol and guidance to that population as part of the protection that we would like to give to those individuals… And you are going to hear more about that in the weeks to come, as we not only attempt to manage the challenge but also manage it in a context where we have to resume normality in our economy.

“In other words, as you move to reopening your borders and people start coming back into normal activities in terms of work, school and so on — which will take a little while but [which] will have to happen — then we are going to have to develop a strategy to ring-fence vulnerable communities because they will always be exposed, because the virus will be around for a long time until we can find a vaccine and a treatment.

“So once you open your borders, once you start normal activity, the risk is always going to be there. So part of the strategy is going to be to create some protocols around how do we provide best practice advice to persons who may be more at risk because, as you know, the vast majority of people who may have the virus will overcome it very easily,” Dr Tufton said.

He noted that the Government has taken notice of private doctors having to shutter their doors, in some cases, because of COVID-19 concerns.

“We have formed a number of public-private partnerships [PPP]. We recently gave the Medical Association of Jamaica 100,000 N95 masks for distribution to their members. We are doing this PPP, we have signed an agreement with Andrews Memorial Hospital in Kingston for them to be an extension of KPH [Kingston Public Hospital] — all of this represents part of the overall strategy to ensure that we have [an] all-of-society approach,” he said.

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