MORE patients are now turning to health centres for medical attention. In fact, according to Sancia Templer, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health, there has been a 41 per cent increase in the number of patients attending health centres across the island, with an approximate 20 per cent of these visits occurring as a result of the extended opening hours at these facilities.

The permanent secretary made the disclosure while speaking at the second annual White Coat Ceremony of the Caribbean School of Medical Sciences Jamaica (CSMSJ) on February 18.

Seven students received their white coats.

In a wide-ranging address, Templer pointed to the significant improvements that have been made in relation to security, staff and equipment at these health institutions which, she said, have contributed to increased patient visits.

In terms of the reduction in patient flow to the accident and emergency departments at hospitals, Templer pointed to improvement in health care facilities coupled with improvements in the infrastructure at the St Ann’s Bay and Mandeville hospitals, as two examples, that have also resulted in reduction of the patients’ waiting time at hospitals.

Commenting on the other priority areas for the Ministry of Health, she noted that they included the digitisation of patient records and telemedicine, pharmaceuticals and drug services, establishing a volunteerism system and a compassionate care programme, and public-private partnership through the Adopt-a-Clinic Initiative, which the ministry has so far received interests from groups offering to adopt more than 60 clinics.

The permanent secretary commended the CSMSJ for their “vision to create more opportunities for the training of persons wishing to join the medical profession”.

In his remarks, the dean and founder of the CSMSJ Dr Neville Graham likened the growth of the institution to that of the proverbial ‘fig tree’, which has now put down solid roots in its third year of existence. These include having acquired a chartered status since last July and, therefore, an ability to grant medical degrees to student from across the world; being listed on the World Health Organization (WHO) among medical schools; its third-year cohort of students are now on clinical rotation at the May Pen Hospital; and successfully delivering two courses in anatomy to University of Technology Jamaica dental students that resulted in a 90 per cent pass rate.

Dr Graham pointed to the CSMSJ’s goal of “building a specialised university of medicine and health care sciences, and a centre of excellence in teaching research and the practice of medicine”, which it hopes to achieve through strategic partnerships with both local and international partners in both public and private sectors.

In looking to the future, the CSMSJ dean spoke of “spreading our wings to the rest of the Caribbean, Latin America, USA, Canada, Africa, and Asia in search of international students, and to increase our collaboration with local universities in health care… for scholarships, grants and research funding as we strive to help Jamaicans with great potential but with limited resources”.

The private medical school, which is among 42 similar institutions in the Caribbean and the only one that is owned by Caribbean nationals, is aiming to charge Jamaican students that are enrolled in September of 2018 fees of not more than US$12,000 per year for the first two years of their education, and training by way of scholarships, loans, grants, sponsorship, and partnerships with private, public and international institutions.

The white coat ceremony is a rite of passage which welcomes new medical students into the medical profession that bounds them by the same professional commitment that binds all physicians. The ceremony joins the symbol of the white coat with the virtues of altruism, responsibility, duty, honour, respect, and compassion.

The CSMSJ instituted the white coat ceremony as a means of reinforcing to its medical students to always do their best.

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