JAMAICA | PNP wants immediate action on Maternal and Neonatal Healthcare Crisis in Jamaica

JAMAICA | PNP wants immediate action on Maternal and Neonatal Healthcare Crisis in Jamaica

KINGSTON, Jamaica, June 21, 2024 - The People's National Party (PNP) has raised a red flag over the escalating healthcare crisis impacting maternal and neonatal care in Jamaica.

The party's concerns stem from alarming statistics presented to Parliament by Health Minister Dr. Chris Tufton, as well as first-hand accounts highlighting trends that demand immediate government action and accountability.

Maternal Mortality Crisis in SRHA

In a scathing statement, the PNP criticized the Health Minister's attempt to attribute the dramatic rise in maternal mortality to the COVID-19 pandemic. "In 2021, 11 of 19 maternal deaths were linked to COVID-19, but by 2022, only 2 of 18 were attributed to the virus," the statement noted. The Southern Regional Health Authority (SRHA) has seen maternal mortality rates soar from 27 per 100,000 to an unprecedented 273 per 100,000. This tenfold increase is a stark indicator of a regressive trend that cannot be dismissed with public relations efforts or vague explanations. The PNP demands transparent answers and effective strategies to combat this crisis.

Ventilator and ICU Space Shortages

Adding to the healthcare woes, the PNP highlighted the dire shortage of ICU space and trained personnel capable of operating ventilators in hospitals across the island. In a disturbing example from May Pen, a child in urgent need of a ventilator remains stranded due to the lack of available ICU space and qualified staff. Despite the presence of ventilators, their utility is nullified by the absence of trained doctors. This issue is widespread, with many ventilators reserved for operating theatres, leaving emergency respiratory cases without necessary support. The PNP calls on the government to ensure all hospitals are adequately equipped and staffed to provide critical care.

Decline in Birth Rates and Increase in Neonatal Mortality

Jamaica is grappling with a troubling dual crisis in its healthcare system. The birth rate has plummeted from 21.4 live births per 1,000 population to 11.7, marking a 47% decrease. This decline is coupled with a surge in neonatal mortality, which has increased from 9.2 to 14.6 per 1,000 live births. The PNP emphasized the gravity of this situation, pointing out that while fewer children are being born, a significantly higher proportion of them are dying in their first days of life. This unacceptable trend calls for urgent, comprehensive action from the government to ensure the health and survival of newborns.

Discrepancies in Mortality Statistics

The PNP also expressed concern over discrepancies in maternal and neonatal mortality statistics reported by the Ministry of Health and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). These differing figures raise questions about the accuracy and reliability of the data used to shape public health policies. The party has urged the government to clarify these discrepancies and ensure that all health statistics are accurate and consistent, providing a reliable foundation for policy-making and intervention strategies.

PNP's Call to Action

In light of these alarming trends, the PNP has outlined a series of urgent actions for the government. They call for a thorough investigation into the causes of the dramatic increase in maternal mortality in the SRHA and demand that all hospitals be equipped with the necessary ICU space, ventilators, and trained personnel. The party also stresses the importance of developing and implementing strategies to reduce neonatal mortality and support healthy birth rates. Furthermore, they insist on the clarification and reconciliation of statistical discrepancies between the Ministry of Health and PAHO to ensure accurate data for effective decision-making.

The PNP's message is clear: the health and future of Jamaica depend on immediate and decisive action from the government to address these critical issues.

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