Relatives and well-wishers of residents at the island’s 16 Infirmaries and Golden Age home will be granted access to visit, when the two-year-long restriction, triggered by the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, is lifted effective April 1.
Desmond McKenzie, Local Government, and Rural Development Minister, made the announcement on Wednesday, while he, along with Councillor Leeroy Williams, Mayor Montego Bay, councilors of the St. James Municipal Corporation, and Matron of the Infirmary Jacqueline Wilson, cut the ribbon to declare the new $45 million male ward officially open doctor’s office and boasts a new therapeutic park, complete with gazebo and fountain. He says, however, that while visits will be allowed, he charged the staff of infirmaries to maintain and observe all the protocols which were implemented at the height of COVID-19.
“Because of COVID-19, we put in restrictions. Some of the restrictions were to stop visits from taking place; we stopped accepting new residents from going on Field trips. But we need to breathe some new life into the infirmaries. Commencing the first of April, we will resume full-time visits to residents in our infirmaries,” McKenzie said.
He also announced that 11 million dollars were spent to outfit the new 40-bed facility, which now houses 34 residents with space to accommodate an additional six male residents.
The local government minister also indicated that the ministry would shortly be taking steps to address what he says are growing concerns about mental health issues presenting among residents of infirmaries.
“It is a serious problem because not all of the persons who work within the facilities are trained to deal with mental health cases. We are now looking at the possibility of employing a psychiatric nurse aid within the infirmary system, who would be able to deal with those cases,” he explained.
CHANGE OF NAME
Meanwhile, Chairman of the St. James Municipal Corporation and Mayor of Montego Bay Councilor Leeroy Williams urged Minister McKenzie to advocate for a change of name, citing that many would be beneficiaries of the Poor Relief Department but are hesitant because of the connotations associated with the name.
He suggested that the name be changed to Human Services Department, to which the minister indicated that a Bill calling for the name change was already in train and following the conclusion of the Sectoral Debate in Parliament he would be pursuing the matter.