The Government is undertaking three multimillion-dollar programmes to provide persons with limb replacement, dentures, and vision-saving services, including surgeries.
Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, announced the initiatives during his contribution to the 2023/24 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Wednesday (May 3).
He said that a sum of $50 million will be made available under the ‘A Prosthetic Partnership Programme for Persons with Disabilities in Jamaica’ to provide qualified persons with properly fitted prostheses, enabling them to return to optimal productivity and social participation.
The Ministry will be partnering with the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD) on the initiative.
Dr. Tufton said the loss of a leg from diabetes or road accident is not only a source of sadness and grief for the person, their family or loved ones but “it is also a life-restricting condition. We will show compassion to those who need a second chance, and we will use their examples to encourage other Jamaicans on prevention”.
Meanwhile, under a programme called #2ndChanceSmiles, a sum of $60 million will be spent to provide 10,000 persons under age 60 with the opportunity to apply for replacement dentures at more than 82 dental centres across the island.
The initiative will extend over an 18-month period.
“We will also be conducting an assessment of the oral health programme to see what measures can be implemented in the future to support tooth/teeth-saving procedures instead of extraction as a first option. We will also be continuing our school’s good oral hygiene interventions and will be exploring partnerships with the private sector to promote good oral health,” he said.
Turning to support for eyecare, Minister Tufton informed that the Cuba Eye Care Programme, which was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will resume in August, while the Ministry intensifies other eyecare initiatives in public facilities across the island in collaboration with the Cubans and through re-engagement of the ophthalmology programme.
“It is anticipated that at least 2,000 Jamaicans will receive the much-needed eyecare interventions that will mitigate blindness and the negative impact that this condition causes. This has started already by addressing the backlog of persons waiting for cataract surgery at the Kingston Public Hospital. We will continue with increasing the number of diabetics being screened in the Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Programme in our primary care centres,” the Minister said.
He noted that special attention will be given to students, noting that learning difficulties or misbehaviour in school could be a consequence of vision impairment.
“The aim is to visit 50 schools and to do free eye screening and, where required, to provide the necessary interventions. This will be done over an 18-month period,” Minister Tufton said.