Chris Tufton, Jamaica is one health crisis away from utter collapse

This is not a condemnation, it’s a call to action, Minister Tufton. These problems were inherited but, by listening to the stakeholders most affected, you may have just been presented with an extra opportunity to address the ills of the Jamaican public health sector.

Jamaica’s ailing public health sector may not have the wherewithal to withstand much more strain, as doctors continue to complain about a dire lack of medication, dangerously long shifts and other issues threatening to push medical practitioners to the brink.

It is seemingly a situation Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, thinks is manageable as he outright rejected concerns that the island was experiencing a medication shortage.

Tufton, appearing on Television Jamaica’s (TVJ) All Angles programme on Wednesday (July 15), instantly became a trending topic on Twitter as local doctors and citizens watched in disbelief.

It’s a long-standing, unsustainable issue that is bound to have ripple-effects if our dedicated medical professionals leave for greener pastures, as the Dionne Jackson-Miller weekly series highlighted many grave conditions doctors juggle while working in the public health sector.

In the eyes of many Jamaicans, doctors and citizens alike, the country’s situation couldn’t be clearer: the island is in trouble, and its minister and senior advisors are out of touch with the needs of the people most affected and impacted.

This issue has moved well past who did what and who’s to blame, and to the point where urgent intervention is needed before the system implodes. Already stretched thin, and made worse by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, just one straw will be enough to break the proverbial camel’s back.

In case you were wondering, the problem is not limited to Kingston; in a recent interview, when pressed about the growing unavailability of jobs for doctors, Tufton insinuated that they spread their wings in CARICOM.

You can’t complain of a brain drain AND contribute to it at the same time. These are people’s lives and this could just be a recipe for disaster being pressure-cooked underwater.

And it gets worse.

We haven’t even begun to talk about the conditions for nurses, ancillary staff and the patients themselves.

What’s more, it brings into focus how flawed and deeply siloed each facet of the public health system is from the wider society—and underscores the work that is still needed to fix the sector for the benefit of all.

Still, (and to his credit) Tufton has spearheaded many improvements to the Jamaican health sector, however, it will all be in vain if the most important members are demotivated, too tired, too sick or feel unvalued and leave to never return.