Shaken by criticism of chronic machinery breakdowns and long downtimes for repairs, the Department of Health and Welfare is exploring the possibility of leasing medical equipment for the public sector instead of making purchases.
This consideration marks an admission by the government that it lacks the technical capacity for effective maintenance, leaving thousands of public sector customers waiting weeks or months for an intervention.
“The first time the equipment breaks down, it ends up somewhere in the corner, and sometimes even when you have extended services, you have to send the person to Germany to fly to Jamaica, and it creates all sorts of problems,” Dr. Christopher Tufton, the portfolio minister, said at a Gleaner editors forum on Tuesday.
One such example was in September 2021 when the Linear Accelerator (LINAC) used by radiation patients at the National Cancer Treatment Centre, located at St Joseph’s Hospital, was out of service.
“The machine breaks down from time to time, as with any machine, and we don’t have the local capacity to fix it,” said South East Regional Health Authority Regional Director Errol Greene. the gleaner.
Tufton made the revelation shortly after opposition health spokesman Dr Morais Guy expressed concern about the state of equipment in Jamaican hospitals.
“The deficits in hospitals now when it comes to the functioning of CT scanners, x-ray units and ultrasound machines. I know they have received donations and gifts, but we still have large hospitals that don’t have major facilities in operation,” Guy said.
He noted that the Cornwall Regional Hospital needs an x-ray unit, as only portable units are used, and these do not allow for detailed studies.
Guy explained that patients must be sent off-site under the ministry’s public-private partnership to have X-rays taken.
Tufton added that the department is trying to standardize arrangements where, for example, mammography units or CT scanners are rented with a maintenance contract.
“They are responsible either for being mobilized here or for training the skill sets to be mobilized for maintenance, so that we get the best use of them. Many countries are doing this, and this is something we are looking at,” the minister said.
The president of the Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ), Dr. Brian James, said leases were a viable option.
However, he said there are certain areas of equipment maintenance that do not lend themselves to leases.
“What I think is also worth pursuing is to improve not only the number and funding of biomedical departments in hospitals, but also their overall organization,” James said.
“There is a huge problem, and I call our biomedical units purgatory because all of our machines go there right after they die to wait and see if they go to heaven.”