Our Readers' Opinions
June 7, 2019
Filling the gap

Editor: There will always be a gap between best Health Care practices and those in existence. Bridging this gap is a difficult challenge.

The gap manifests itself in many forms such as: keeping up with available knowledge and new technology; the provision of suitable facilities, furnishing and equipment; and adequate human resources.

People travelling home to St. Vincent and the Grenadines from developed countries are more likely to recognize these gaps in our health care service and they often complain. While these deficiencies have generally been so for decades; there are moves to vigorously address them.

Transforming the Health Sector

Over the past two to three months, there have been openings of four health facilities as Government seeks to modernize the health sector in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. These facilities which are located in Chateaubelair, Marriaqua, Union Island and Buccament, and their furnishings, were provided at great cost, placed at between thirty-six to forty million (EC $36-40 M) Eastern Caribbean dollars. Their deliveries in quick succession were obviously quite noticeable and must be commended far beyond the bounds of political expediency.

On July 14, 2011, the European Union (EU) and the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (GOSVG) signed the Financing Agreement for the implementation of the 16th EDF to address the Modernization of the Health Sector in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Going back a few years to include the time of conceptualization, gives the project ten (10) years or more to come to fruition in 2018 – 2019. This time frame generally holds true for most projects and often cuts across the time period of one government into that of another. The salient point to be grasped is that changes do not occur overnight; it takes time for it to happen. Secondly, because of the long gestation period, some of the changes that were initially planned may not be as effective as were intended because of changes in the external environment.

The Gaps

These may exist in the following ways:

(a) Improper maintenance of buildings, furnishing and equipment;

(b) Poor dissemination of information about up to date best practices; and

(c) Absence of equipment that are critically needed for the delivery of certain services.

It could take as little as five years for the novelty of having a new facility to disappear. It is compounded by the fact that governments undergo great struggles to upkeep public facilities. The story is told about such issues as the presence of broken or damaged furniture, windows and tiles, faded paint on walls, un-kept lawns, and fencing over grown by hanging vines.

From the very onset, the people of surrounding communities should be made to understand that the facilities with their furnishings were provided for their use. It is theirs, and will remain with them for succeeding generations; they are important stake-holders. This can best be conveyed by allowing them to become involved through the establishment of actively functioning community groups- in this case -Health Teams, to help fill the gaps. Such community-based teams can be more effective than merely having management boards. Or, both can be in place, each complementing the work of the other.

Within communities there are responsible, experienced and knowledgeable persons, many of whom have served at different levels of management in various bodies whose services can be tapped to enhance the provision of good community health care, and also assist in putting in place a good succession plan.

Our Attitude

The old adage: “make the best use of what you have and try to get the better’, is quite fitting in these situations. In other words, build on what you have; do not despise and destroy the good that is present in a quest to get what is desired. That bad attitude may be manifested in various acts of vandalism, stealing, and the defacement of public buildings, including health facilities.

The Marriaqua District Health Team

At the macro level the government will establish a path and set out policies; but there will always be voids or gaps that citizens will be called on to fill.

Against the background of all that had been said, the Marriaqua District Health Team is rising to the challenge to be a partner in the upliftment of the health sector. The aim is to promote overall good health among the people of the communities within the health district through the practice of better lifestyles. The results achieved would be documented in the statistics at the various health centers and seen in the improved health circumstances of residents.

Joseph Mapp
Marriaqua District Health Team