Delegation of the European Union to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean States, the OECS and CARICOM/CARIFORUM

High–dependency units expected to play a key role in reducing maternal and newborn deaths over the next five years

26/06/2020 - 00:22
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Pregnancy is a period of great expectation and also a time of anxiety for pregnant women and their families. Access to high quality healthcare facilities, equipment and skilled professionals, plays an important role in helping to reassure expectant women and ensure the best outcome; especially for those who face a higher risk of something going wrong during the pregnancy.


The European Union funded Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality (PROMAC), implemented by the Ministry of Health and Wellness in line with a Jamaica-EU agreement has equipped four hospitals with the resources and skills needed to care for the sickest and most vulnerable pregnant women and newborns across the country.

On June 24, Minister of Health & Wellness, Dr the Hon. Christopher Tufton along with Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska officially opened the second such facility under the programme - a maternal high-dependency unit (HDU) as well as a refurbished space for neonatal care at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital (VJH) located in downtown Kingston.

Senior Medical Officer at VJH, Dr Garth McDonald said "the new six- bed maternal HDU, an operating theatre and isolation suite will increase the hospital's capacity to care for critically ill patients who are usually transferred from other hospitals across the island to VJH." In addition, he noted that the expansion of the neonatal facilities to accommodate four (4) high dependency beds, creation of isolation suites that facilitate the ventilation of up to 16 premature babies who need respiratory support at one time - as well as the refurbishment of space for a 24-bed general nursery facility, will result in even more lives being saved.

Dr McDonald expressed the hope that with the outputs from PROMAC, including four high dependency units across the country, equipment supplied and training provided to medical personnel including obstetricians, "Jamaica will see a reduction in its maternal, neonatal and perinatal mortality rates comparable to developed countries within the next five years."  

Latest available data indicate that Jamaica's maternal mortality ratio now stands at 89 per 100,000 live births. The goal is to reduce this to 27.5 per 100,000 by 2030 in keeping with the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals. The infant mortality rate is 16.6 per 100,000 live births, as at 2018.

EU Ambassador, Malgorzata Wasilewska said the COVID-19 experience has highlighted the importance of countries having strong public health systems and responses to protect and preserve life not only in emergencies but at all times.

"Ensuring access to health for all- from the poorest to the richest; from the new-born baby to the elderly is essential for enjoyment of the right to life. This high dependency unit is a visible demonstration of our commitment to supporting partner countries to strengthen their health systems, ensure that no one is left behind and no human right is ignored. It is our hope that this facility and the service provided here will inspire increased confidence and promote and preserve the dignity of all who enter its doors."

VJH has been providing comprehensive maternal and child care as well as gynaecological and reproductive health services to pregnant women from across Jamaica for over 130 years. It is the largest referral maternity hospital in the English speaking Caribbean and delivers approximately 7,000 babies per year.

The seven year-old PROMAC initiative which is funded to the tune of 22 million Euro will come to an end in November 2020.

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