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Improved access to maternal, neonatal care

May 3, 2023


Health Ministry to expand infrastructure, ramp up provision of care supplies


KINGSTON, Jamaica. Wednesday, May 3, 2023: High Dependency Units at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital will this year be recommissioned, as the Ministry moves to bolster the island’s maternal health outcomes.


Minister of Health & Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton made the disclosure today in his Sectoral presentation.


Noting that several maternal health projects are in train, the Minister underscored that the plans are among the Ministry’s priority to safeguard women and their newborn, and to meet the targets for the reduction of maternal and infant mortality under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Madam Speaker, COVID-19 has delayed the full commissioning of the PROMAC investments at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital. This year, the committee that I have appointed will lead the work of reinstating the infrastructure provided through our collaboration with the European Union and will rededicate the High Dependency Units and operating theatres that were repurposed to support our COVID-19 fight,” Dr. Tufton said.         

Through the EU-funded Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality (PROMAC),
two High Dependency Units were established at Victoria Jubliee Hospital in 2019 as the Ministry expanded its infrastructure to provide specialised care for new mothers and their babies. The project also sought to improve the quality of and access to neonatal and emergency obstetric care.


Incentivising Antenatal Care

“Madam Speaker, our maternal health statistics are below the SDG target of 70 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030. Based on the epidemiological report, Jamaica now has 145.8 deaths per 100,000 live births, which is of great concern to us in the Ministry. One of the causes of the high rates of maternal deaths is due to late presentation of mothers to antenatal care,” Dr. Tufton continued. 

Pointing to the recently launched ‘Start Right’ Initiative, the Minister highlighted the programme as an intervention to better equip vulnerable women to take care of themselves and their newborns.      

“The objective here is to provide adolescents and vulnerable mothers with an incentive for their full participation in the antenatal care provided in the public health system.
Mothers are encouraged through our ongoing public education campaign to attend at least four antenatal visits to ensure their own safety and the safety of the child,” he said.

initiative is further grounded in the Ministry’s strategy to support teen mothers and their babies in accessing and remaining in care after delivery.


“Madam Speaker, already the Minister of State has issued 100 Snuggle Nests which are creative, safe and baby-functional loungers provided to mothers who would have complied with the antenatal health visit conditions. This year, the Ministry intends to issue 3,000 Snuggle Nests as part of our interventions to improve maternal and child health,” Dr. Tufton added.      

Packed with care supplies, the Snuggle Nests have so far been provided to mothers upon their release from the Victoria Jubilee and Spanish Town Hospitals. ‘Start Right’ has also introduced to the public health system, the Butterfly Handheld Ultrasound Monitor – a modern, mobile-friendly device, into Obstetrics Units at eight facilities. The device is now being used globally to
carry out scans at the bedside of patients.

“Additionally, we will be working with our colleagues in the Ministry of Labour & Social
Security to strengthen the PATH conditions for pregnant mothers, ensuring that the additional cash transfers
provided to these women can effectively incentivise this critical health-seeking behaviour,” the Minister added.


More works in train      

“Finally, design work on the Port Antonio Hospital Maternal Ward will be completed and a tender will be launched to expand and improve the service delivery in this specialist area of the hospital,” the Minister said.    

The maternal health projects are being actioned under the portfolio of the Minister of State, the Hon. Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn.