top of page

Health Rights

Rights are not widely enough respected in the provision of public health services in Jamaica.

If this were true, it would be a strong criticism of the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW). The truth is in fact asserted by the experience of lower-income people: they complain bitterly of the long waits they have to endure in order to receive attention for minor ailments and

treatment for major ones, coupled with the rough handling they often get.

This is not to condemn health service in Jamaica as completely failing the

populace. It has much that is highly commendable.

However, major gaps in important areas impact particularly on poorer people, especially women, who are the ones usually taking responsibility for the health of family members,

specifically of children and grand-parents.

One of these gaps is the insufficiency of nurses and some other professional

staff, where again women predominate and bear an extra burden when

numbers falling short, they have to fill in. Clearly women and poorer people

are placed low on the human rights scale, which completely contradicts the

equality imbedded in rights.

Rights are for everybody because their basis is thehumanity of every individual.

Insufficiency of funds to compete with richer countries for skilled staff does

not stand up to scrutiny when expenditure made in other areas of health is

taken into account. There are the billions poured into refurbishing Cornwall

Regional Hospital, for example, over almost a decade.

Outside of health there is the billion and a half, partly spent, partly projected, for the Mandeville tax office. Excuses that refer to procurement obstacles are unacceptable, nor can

incompetence explain.

The building leased for the tax office in St Mary and still not occupied after three years is owned by a member of parliament.

One health area specific to women where the issue of rights is pre-eminent is

abortion. A recent survey of clergy has shown that even many of those who

deny this to be a woman’s right, an issue that we are not arguing here, have to

admit that existing legislation denies rights to poor women: it forces them to

take a back-street route and its frequently harmful consequences.

Better-off women can afford to pay (illegally) for safe conditions.

Inequality again.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness must address the health rights of the poor

and its female half despite the difficulty. Rights brook no postponement.

This is a fearsome undertaking, however, for it means tackling class and race divisions

with a long history and deeply engrained.

Just understanding that reality is the first step, however, and it is never too late to make a start.


bottom of page