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Jamaica - Health Service

Taking Care Of Your Health In Jamaica

If you need to call the ambulance or fire services in Jamaica, the emergency number is 110, while the police service are on 119.

You’ll need to contact your insurance provider immediately if something happens, so make sure the number is programmed into your mobile phone, along with a note of your reference number.

You will also need to update your mobile phone contacts list with the telephone number for your home country’s embassy in Kingston. In the case of an emergency, you may find their assistance invaluable.

What Injections Do I Need For Jamaica?

The National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) lists the vaccinations recommended for your travel to Jamaica.

Ideally, you will see your medical practitioner about six weeks before you head out. Remember to book the appointment in plenty of time in case the clinic is short of staff when you ring.

At the time of writing, everyone heading to Jamaica is advised to be up to date with their vaccinations and boosters for:

● Measles

● Mumps

● Rubella

● Diptheria

● Tetanus

● Polio

Additionally, vaccinations against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B could be considered.

A vaccination against bat lyssaviruses (bat rabies) may be advisable if you are likely to work in an ecological field.

If you have a pre-existing condition, talk to your doctor about the advice, treatment and medication you need. You can then make a plan about accessing those essential healthcare services in Jamaica.

If you need to take medication with you to Jamaica, carefully research the procedure for doing so. If you arrive at the airport with six months’ supply of medication and you don’t have the correct evidence that the medication is for you, or if you bring in substances which are not licensed in Jamaica, you will immediately find yourself in a serious and frightening predicament.

Mosquito Borne Diseases In Jamaica

The health authorities have worked long and hard in Jamaica to reduce the transmission of disease through mosquito bites. The situation has undoubtedly improved over the years but cases still do occur.

Malaria tablets, which often have side effects, are not required for travelling to or living in Jamaica. With the exception of a malaria outbreak at the end of 2006, which did not cause any deaths, all recent cases of malaria identified in Jamaica were contracted in other countries.

Similarly, yellow fever does not occur locally in Jamaica. This means that anyone coming to Jamaica from a country at risk of yellow fever must, by law, hold a certificate proving that they have received a vaccination against it.

Cases of dengue fever happen frequently in Jamaica and in 2018, a number of related deaths were confirmed. In 2014 and 2016, outbreaks of Zika virus and Chikungunya were identified. Each of these diseases are transmitted through mosquito bites, although the Zika virus can also be passed on through unprotected sex.

As a result of these risks, you should proactively reduce your chances of being bitten by mosquitos. Check your property for any empty plant pots collecting rainwater or other potential mosquito breeding grounds. Protect your skin with insect repellent and clothing between dusk and dawn, and stay out of the open air during these hours if you can. Keep your patio doors closed at night to keep mosquitos out of your home.

Generally, mosquito nets are not required in Jamaica except for pregnant women and new-born babies, who are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the Zika virus.

Healthcare Insurance For Jamaica

Jamaica runs a public healthcare system for those who are registered with the National Health Fund. You need a taxpayer reference number to benefit from this, and your earnings will be taxed at the appropriate rates to contribute to the fund.

The Jamaican public healthcare service is not well-funded. Jamaica’s population is small and far from wealthy. Increasing numbers of elderly patients with complex needs have put the system under strain. Rural facilities in particular can be poor, while many hospitals insist on patients paying for expensive medicines. Waiting lists are generally lengthy and specialist areas of medicine are often not available on the island.

That said, staff working in the public healthcare sector are hard-working and widely admired. Nine out of 10 hospital beds are provided in the public sector. Areas targeted for government attention, especially in respect of communicable diseases, have often been very successful.

According to the World Health Organisation, the average life expectancy in Jamaica in 2015 was 73.9 years for men and 76.2 years for women. By comparison, the average life expectancy in the United States, which has the highest medical expenditure per person in the world, is 76.9 years for men and 81.2 years for women.

Private Medical Insurance

As an expat, you will probably find that the rationed and limited public healthcare services in Jamaica do not meet your expectations. If you want fast access to appointments with key staff, you will need to pay privately.

Furthermore, complicated procedures or specialist treatment may require travel to a country with a larger medical industry.

The best way to protect yourself from sudden and substantial medical bills is to get private medical insurance. Remember, if your income comes from work and you become ill, you may well lose your income and financial stability overnight if you’re not insured.

When choosing your policy, check the terms and conditions and think carefully about what your needs might be. It can be hard to make these decisions when you are fit and well. But choosing a policy which won’t fund treatment abroad for the sake of saving a small amount of money each year could be a big mistake.

Mental Health Services In Jamaica

Traditionally, mental illness has been a taboo subject in Jamaica. People living with mental ill health have often been too ashamed and afraid to seek help in the country.

However, attitudes are changing, albeit slowly. In 2012, James and Peltzer interviewed 60 psychiatric patients from the University of the West Indies, Kingston and the Princess Margaret outpatient clinic, and found more than a third of these participants believed that supernatural factors had caused their mental illness. However, younger people in Jamaica today are beginning to seek help rather than suffer in silence, and the demand for mental health services has rapidly increased. Much concern is expressed about the cost and difficulty of accessing treatment.

When the system is working correctly, mental health services available include:

● Private mental health services, including psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors providing community-based care, and who can respond to individual needs without delay.

● Private group homes which provide a supported residential facility for those leaving hospital treatment or where individuals don’t have a family to provide the support structure during times of difficulty.

● Free or subsidised medicine for members of the National Health Fund.

● Free mental health services, albeit with long waits for access and the stigma of being seen going into a community facility.

● Crisis teams which can respond to an individual with mental health issues who needs immediate care.

● Hospital services at a number of locations for those with serious psychiatric issues, although waiting lists can again be long.

● Daytime hospital treatment, for cases in which full time hospital admission is not appropriate.

● Social services support, accessed by registering with the Jamaica Council for persons with a disability, can provide subsidised bus passes and other help to those suffering from long term mental illness.

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