The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) is moving to employ psychiatric nurses in infirmaries across Jamaica as it provides residents with mental health support.
Portfolio Minister, Honourable Desmond McKenzie says the government-operated facilities will have a trained member of staff during this financial year.
The MLGRD has responsibility for the Board of Supervision, which oversees the Poor Relief Programme that tends to persons unable to provide for themselves. The clientele includes some who are institutionalized and live in the infirmaries; others living on their own; and the homeless.
“We are moving to add an additional complement of staffing support, and that is for the first time in our infirmaries a member of staff will be trained as a psychiatric nurse in dealing with the problems of mental health and other social cases that are in our infirmaries,” the Minister said at the official opening of the Falmouth Homeless Shelter in Trelawny on May 5.
“This is a first for infirmaries in Jamaica and it comes under this administration.”
Minister McKenzie added that while COVID-19 containment measures implemented at the infirmaries were generally successful, including the suspension of visitations, they have created mental stress among residents.
“Mental health is a serious problem because not all the persons who work within the facilities are trained to deal with mental-health cases,” he noted.
“I remember going to an infirmary, and I saw where they had to lock away three or four of the residents in an area by themselves because of the mental-health challenge that they posed.”
Training infirmary staff in psychiatry is one of several initiatives that the MLGRD is employing to improve the quality of life for those in state care. There is also an ongoing effort to ensure infirmaries across the country have access to ambulances. The local government ministry is working with the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports, and Education (CHASE) Fund on this.
“We have many infirmaries that are operating without these services. An ambulance is a very important part of the requirements, and I am pleased to announce that the parishes of St Elizabeth and Portland will benefit shortly from two brand new ambulances that will be provided by the CHASE Fund,” the Minister noted.
The restriction on visitors to the infirmaries was lifted on April 1 with special protocols to safeguard the residents.
Visits were suspended visits as well as the admission of new residents, and field trips for residents in a bid to stem the spread of the virus during the height of the pandemic.