#Kingston, September 19, 2023 – The May Pen to Williamsfield leg of the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project (SCHIP) was officially opened by Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, on Thursday (September 14).
The thoroughfare, which represents part A of the SCHIP, now significantly reduced travel time between the parishes of Clarendon and Manchester and will offer a multitude of economic and social benefits to users.
Speaking during the segment’s opening ceremony, Prime Minister Holness hailed the development as “a step in improving the general quality of life for all Jamaicans”.
“[It is] a step in improving the productivity of all Jamaicans. You can easily measure the productivity gained of this road by the productivity lost in traffic, discomfort and the aggression it creates in driving on some of the other bad roads,” he said.
Mr. Holness noted that some of the anticipated benefits of the new roadway include connecting workers to jobs, improving the response time of the security forces, and improving and lowering the cost for delivering agricultural outputs to market.
“In so many ways, building your infrastructure improves well-being,” he emphasised.
The Prime Minister also announced that the highway’s usage will be at no cost to motorists until the end of the calendar year, on December 31, 2023. After this period, toll rates will be applied.
Mr. Holness further pointed out that the scope of work for the highway included a new four-lane bridge across the Rio Minho to increase the area’s resilience to weather events.
The project also features a two-year defects liability phase, the Prime Minister said, while noting that, “during this phase, the contractor will have to fix any project-related defects”.
It was implemented by the National Road Operating and Constructing Company Limited (NROCC), under the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation.
For his part, NROCC Managing Director, Stephen Edwards, described the highway’s opening as “a momentous occasion in infrastructure development in Jamaica”.
Dubbing the project as a “giant leap forward for the parishes of Clarendon and Manchester and for all Jamaicans”, Mr. Edwards informed that the contract’s implementation commenced in 2019.
He detailed that the development features a 23-kilometre four-lane highway with adiamond interchange and Florida-T at May Pen, a separated interchange at Toll Gate, an interchange at Melrose, four bridges, 17 concrete box crossings, upgrading of approximately five kilometres of roadway along the Melrose Bypass to a four-lane dual carriageway, a police post at Toll Gate, safety fences, concrete median barriers, and the installation and expansion of fibre optics.
“We believe… we have delivered a modern highway that the people of Jamaica can be proud of,” Mr. Edwards added.
Minister of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport, Hon. Daryl Vaz, in his remarks, said the highway’s opening is “a pivotal junction in our nation’s transportation history”.
“This remarkable highway will undoubtedly reshape this side of the island and its network and elevate collective journeys towards progress. This occasion is also a testament to the dedication in providing safer roads and enhanced connectivity for all Jamaicans,” Mr. Vaz stated.
Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Hon. Everald Warmington, also spoke highly of the road development.
He expressed that the new leg of the country’s highway network represents “more than just concrete, steel and asphalt”.
“It signifies development, connectivity, and the promise of a brighter future for all those who traverse the south coast of this country,” Mr. Warmington said.
He added that a well-planned, efficient transportation network is the backbone of any thriving nation, as it connects people, fosters economic growth and enhances the quality of life for citizens.
Medical Council of Jamaica Announces more CME hours for Doctors
KINGSTON, September 19, 2023 (JIS) – Medical doctors will be required to complete two additional hours of Continuing Medical Education (CME) specifically dedicated to mental health and wellness in order to renew their practising certificates come January 2024.
The Medical Council of Jamaica (MCJ) noted that this critical update forms part of its commitment to advancing the healthcare system and ensuring doctors are well-equipped to meet the prevailing mental health demands.
“This increase moves the total required CME hours from 20 to 22, enhancing doctors’ ability to address the mental health implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The decision to introduce these additional CME hours is driven by the Medical Council of Jamaica’s commitment to prioritise the well-being of both patients and healthcare professionals,” the MCJ stated.
The Council reasoned that COVID-19 has highlighted the pressing need for mental health support, with healthcare workers facing unprecedented challenges, experiencing increased stress and witnessing the emotional toll the pandemic has taken on patients.
To support doctors in meeting the new CME requirement, MCJ Registrar, Professor Howard Spencer, shared that the Council will provide access to a range of accredited providers and resources offering relevant mental health and wellness courses.
“The Medical Council of Jamaica encourages all doctors to proactively engage in these additional CME hours well in advance of the renewal deadline in early 2024, to ensure a seamless continuation of their practice,” he emphasised.
The Council added that the focus on mental health and wellness will empower doctors with the knowledge and skills to provide comprehensive and compassionate care to patients experiencing challenges in this area.
Commenting on the new requirement, Consultant Psychiatrist and Public Health Specialist, Dr. Earl Wright, underscored that the additional CME hours are a win-win for doctors.
“It’s not only enhancing the doctors’ care of the patient but doctors need to take care of themselves also. This will help to prevent doctor burnout. Doctors are sometimes under severe stress for long periods of time. So enhancing the doctors’ ability to take care of themselves, they’re also enhancing their ability to take care of all their patients,” he remarked.
For more information about the new CME requirement, visit www.jamaicamedicalcouncil.org.
Multi Pronged Approach in St. Ann to Tackle Dengue
Montego Bay September 19 (JIS) – The St. Ann Health Department has adopted a multipronged approach in the fight against dengue fever as the parish reports an increase in suspected cases of the mosquito-borne disease.
Addressing the monthly meeting of the St Ann Municipal Corporation on September 14, Medical Officer of Health for St. Ann, Dr. Tamika Henry, said although the country is not currently in outbreak mode, the parish is on high alert due to the endemic nature of dengue in Jamaica.
She explained that the multipronged strategy includes surveillance, case management, health education, human resource reinforcement, larvicidal and adulticidal activities, source reduction, external stakeholder engagement, and continuous monitoring and evaluation.
Active and passive surveillance methods are being employed to detect suspected cases early. This involves healthcare personnel actively searching for symptoms at hospitals and health centres, ensuring prompt intervention when necessary.
“We have a nurse that is stationed at the hospital; she’s our hospital active surveillance nurse. She goes from ward to ward, as well as in the outpatient department, accident and emergency, looking to see if there’s anybody who matches the case definition for dengue because, of course, we want to pick up things very early,” Dr. Henry said.
She noted that the health department has bolstered its human resources, employing 26 permanent vector control workers across its five health districts.
To manage the situation effectively, high-risk communities have been identified and targeted for intervention by workers, including larvicidal activities aimed at mosquito breeding sites.
Dr. Henry outlined that health education and promotion efforts are widespread, involving various public health nurses, public health inspectors and community health aides.
“We have public health nurses going out. Public health inspectors are in their zonal areas on a day-to-day basis; they, too, do health education. We have our Community Health Aides, who have been doing house-to-house visits, reminding persons about searching and destroying,” she said.
Dr. Henry noted that the Ministry of Education and Youth is also engaged, with dengue lesson plans being implemented in schools.
“One of our age groups of concern is five to 14. So, we engage with them [Ministry] and they have again rolled out their dengue lesson plan in the schools, and the children are doing their search-and-destroy activity during their activity session,” she added.
Since the start of 2023, St. Ann has received 17 notifications of suspected dengue cases. One case has been confirmed that involves a 13-year-old male who presented with fever, headache, eye pain, and nausea.
Dr. Henry disclosed that nearly half of these cases, approximately 48 per cent, match the case definition for dengue, a significant increase compared to 2022.
In 2022, the parish had 10 reported cases with only one being confirmed as dengue fever.
“More males are being reported than females in 2023, and we recognise that there are two particular age groups of concern – 5 to 14 age group, that is our primary school going up to our high school, as well as our 24 to 44 age group,” Dr. Henry shared.
Jamaica’s Upgraded Credit Training Will Yield Favourable Financing Terms – Dr. Clarke
#Kingston, September 19, 2023 – Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, says that upgrading of Jamaica’s credit rating by Standard and Poor’s will facilitate access to financing on better terms.
Standard and Poor’s (S&P) Global Ratings, on September 13, upgraded the Government of Jamaica’s Long-Term Foreign and Local Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) from B+ to BB-, with a ‘Stable’ outlook.
It is the best global grading Jamaica has received from S&P since the entity started rating the country’s sovereign debt in 1999.
“Jamaica has the opportunity to access financing at costs lower than we have before, on a relative basis. Because the higher your credit rating, it means the more credit-worthy you are and the more credit-worthy you are, is the less that investors demand to lend you money,” Dr. Clarke stated.
“So, if you pay less for money that you need to finance yourself, it means more becomes available for other expenditure [such as] health, security and infrastructure. So, credit worthiness is linked to fiscal space. The higher your level of credit-worthiness, the more fiscal space that you can have, which, over a long period of time, amounts to a lot of resources,” he added.
The Minister was speaking during the opening ceremony for the Jamaica Institution of Engineers’ observance of Engineers’ Week, at The Summit in New Kingston on Monday (September 18).
Dr. Clarke also pointed out that there is a direct linkage between credit ratings and the country’s ability to finance the society’s needs.
He said Jamaica previously had a ranking of CCC, which is known as a junk credit rating status.
“There was a time where interest payments were 16 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Today, interest payments are like five per cent of GDP, and that is what has allowed us to rebalance the Jamaican economy, to put us on a strong footing and spend more on infrastructure than ever before,” Dr. Clarke indicated.
The Finance Minister also noted that the higher the credit rating, the more favourable the investment climate is deemed to be.
“It means that investments are less risky. Our credit rating is linked to the riskiness or the perceived riskiness of an economy. The higher the credit rating is the more open the economy will be to foreign investment. More foreign investment means more economic activity, more economic activity means more jobs for Jamaicans. So a higher credit rating provides an environment that supports the creation of more jobs for the Jamaican people,” Dr. Clarke stated.
Additionally, he said a higher credit rating affects the terms of trade that Jamaica has with the rest of the world.
“For all of those imports, the businesses have to get credit… and for some of them, they have to post credit insurance, they have to put bonds up. All of those become more affordable, the higher the credit rating of the country. So, this is wonderful news for Jamaica,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Dr. Clarke said Jamaica’s current credit rating is “just three notches below investment grade”.
“[Globally] there are trillions and trillions of institutional funds, [such as] pension funds. But you know what, because they are dealing with people’s lifetime savings, the rules forbid them to put a dollar of those kinds of money into countries that are below investment grade. When we get to investment grade credit rating, however, it is a different story,” the Minister informed.
“The kind of flows that will come to our shores represents the kind of investments that we have never imagined possible before. That is why it must be a national effort to, not only maintain the credit rating that we have earned as a country but to improve it… so that Jamaica becomes open to trillions of dollars of investable funds, to create opportunities for our people,” he added.
Dr. Clarke maintained that a higher credit rating will facilitate easier access to finance for projects.
Contact: Latonya Linton
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