Parish manager for the Manchester Health Services (formerly the Manchester Health Department), Sandia Chambers-Ferguson, has provided 36 years of sterling service to the public health system. She has worked with the Ministry of Health since 1984 and at Manchester Health Services (MHS) since 1995.
The parish manager is among 41 persons who were recently recognised by the MHS for years of service and dedication.
Chambers-Ferguson told JIS News that her tenure has been a rewarding journey.
“I have always been in administration. I started out at Mandeville Hospital as a medical records officer [and] spent 11 years there during which I did my training as a medical records officer at the University of Technology, Jamaica,” she said. When an opportunity arose for her to work at the St Elizabeth Health Department and return to her home parish, Chambers-Ferguson grasped it and remained there for about nine months. In December 1995, she joined the Manchester Health Department and has been there since, rising through the ranks to become parish manager in December 2018. “During that period, I worked my way through the system and availed myself of all of the requisite training. The Ministry of Health and Wellness is very keen on the training of technical officers so that the competency and service delivery in carrying out their work is of a very high standard,” Chambers-Ferguson said. She told JIS News that having completed her medical records training, “I wanted more”.
“I wanted to employ my new-found skills. So after completing my studies, I wrote to the Ministry of Health and told them about my qualifications and indicated that I wanted to move on to areas that would suit my qualifications” she said.
This, Chambers-Ferguson pointed out, eventually led to her appointment as Manchester Health Services parish manager, and credits her success since assuming the position to having a great team, adding that her stint has been very rewarding.
Meanwhile health education/promotion officer, Shereen Reid, was awarded for 26 years of service. She explained that she started her career in 1993 as a community peer educator at the Manchester Health Department.
“A few years later, I did my bachelor’s degree in guidance and counselling at the International University of the Caribbean. While there, I applied for the assistant health education officer post and I was selected in 2008,” Reid said.
She completed her degree in 2009, and by 2016, she was acting as the parish health education officer for Manchester, and was eventually appointed.
“I am very passionate about what I do. I like the interaction with individuals. Health promotion is a specialist area in terms of behaviour change, so I am interacting with clients, many of whom practise unhealthy behaviour,” Reid explained.
She added that “we assess their level and try to move them to one where the behaviour can change in a positive way; so we work in communities, in schools, youth clubs and churches”. Reid said that with Jamaica currently being in the community spread phase of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the parish health team goes into communities administering questionnaires, based on the guidelines, to find out how people feel about the wearing of masks and physical distancing. According to her, two of the main target audiences are taxi operators and vendors, who are both high risk.
“I enjoy the interaction and that is the reason I am still here. I do many proposals in terms of writing programmes for the parish [and] I am very enthused about my job,” Reid beamed.
For his part, regional director for the Southern Regional Health Authority (SRHA), Michael Bent, said the awards were presented as a part of the SRHA’s staff welfare programme. “You would appreciate that when somebody spends upwards of 20 years in an organisation, there’s a lot of institutional capital there, especially in a time when you have this challenging COVID-19 situation,” he said.
The regional director added that “it is very important to use that sort of institutional knowledge to help to keep persons focused and motivated”.
He explained that, as a region, the SRHA has been seeking to keep staff members focused and motivated, especially during COVID-19. “We have an active staff welfare programme. So this long service awards in Manchester, one of the three parishes in the region, was held to show appreciation to our team members and to keep them focused and motivated, despite the challenging times that we are going through,” Bent stated.
He noted that the level of contribution by someone with over 30 years of service is priceless, adding that these persons are still committed to the organisation. “Many of these persons are actually on the front line … they are actively out there. So we see it as an honour to really recognise our team members,” he said.
Bent explained that under the regional staff welfare programme, all parishes have been tasked with recognising the service of staff. “We look at exceptional performance, too, and recognise persons for their contributions. So we did special recognition of some groups, and one of the groups was the vector workers for their vector control management from 2019 to now,” he said.
“You would recall that dengue wreaked havoc on the country last year and they were out there working to protect the population. These are frontline persons, and despite the COVID-19 situation, they still have to be out there. We recognised 14 of them,” Bent informed.
The regional director said 18 community health aides were also recognised for their contribution to breastfeeding support at the health centres and the community.
This, Bent pointed out, forms part of the baby-friendly initiative being practised in health facilities islandwide.