Violence against Public Healthcare Workers Unacceptable

Kingston, Jamaica. November 14, 2019: It has come to the attention of the Ministry of Health & Wellness that abusive language and threats have been circulating on social media in relation to the recent incident at the Bustamante Hospital for Children. The Ministry strongly condemns any act of violence towards members of the public health system, whether in word or action.

Patients and visitors must balance their rights with their responsibility to act with proper decorum when accessing health services. The Ministry is cognizant that the demand for healthcare services will intensify, especially at this time of year, even, as the nation continues to combat the dengue outbreak, while seeing an increase in cases of upper respiratory tract infections, asthma and gastroenteritis, coupled with higher incidences of trauma from motor vehicle accidents and violence.

Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie, in making an urgent appeal to citizens stated, “I urge the public to desist from making remarks that are threatening and can incite more violence. We ask that users of the facilities conduct themselves appropriately and exercise patience especially at this time.”

Additionally, Dr. Bisasor-McKenzie cautioned that there is increased anxiety and fear among health care workers and this has affected the morale of the staff. “We are also keenly aware that patients, especially parents will become anxious, but we ask that they remain calm and allow the health professionals to carry out their duties, given the obviously challenging work environment. This environment will become even more challenging without the cooperation of the patients. Our aim remains to give the highest quality of this very critical service to the people of Jamaica.”
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dunstan E. Bryan noted that, “The security of our patients and staff is of paramount importance and as such the Ministry of Health and Wellness will be reviewing the security protocols in the public health system, to ensure the patients are safe, and our healthcare professionals are in a secure and enabling environment.”

The Ministry and the Regional Health Authorities remain committed to working assiduously to address the issues of increased patient load and resultant waiting time presently facing the public health system. Members of the public are reminded there are close to 20 health centres across the island, that offer extended opening hours. Persons are encouraged to visit their doctor or health centre and allow the health professional to decide if additional care at a hospital is required.