South East Regional Health Authority Jamaica
People caring for people
Business View Caribbean interviews Ms. Maureen Golding, Regional Director of SERHA Jamaica, for our focus on Best Practices in Healthcare in the Caribbean.
The South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA) is the largest of four Regional Health Authorities in Jamaica formed by passage of the National Health Services Act in 1997. The Authority is managed by a team of directors, led by the Regional Director, who reports to a Board appointed by the Minister of Health. SERHA’s mandate is vast and far-reaching –delivering health care services to the residents of St. Catherine, St. Thomas, Kingston, and St. Andrew (47 percent of the population of Jamaica) through a network of nine (9) hospitals and ninety-one (91) health centres. Five of the nine hospitals are also specialist or National Referral Hospitals, which accept patients from other regions and other Caribbean countries.
SERHA is a major job provider in Jamaica, employing approximately 7,000 people from a variety of medical and non-medical groups, including nurses, doctors, technologists, health record administrators, attendants, public health inspectors, Management Information Systems staff, maintenance teams, Human Resources, administrative, and accounting staff.
In her role as Regional Director of SERHA Jamaica for the last five years, Maureen Golding has encountered remarkable changes in the healthcare sector. Business View Caribbean recently spoke with this charming, ambitious leader to glean her insights into the Authority’s challenges, achievements, and expectations for the future. The following is an edited transcript of that conversation.
BVC: What are the basic responsibilities of SERHA and what makes you an effective leader?
Golding: “The fundamental role of SERHA is to safeguard the health and wellness of close 50% of the Jamaican population through a network of cost-effective, preventive, curative, promotive and rehabilitative service. Additionally, SERHA has the responsibility to secure the major airport and the seaport in Kingston. This means that our public health teams are vested with the responsibilities of, what I call, ‘public health policing’ of our ports of entry. Simply put, they quarantine visitors and conduct food and other types of inspections at all ports of entry in Kingston which will ultimately reduce the overall public health risk to the Jamaican people and as such reduce the overall burden of health care.”
“Leading this organization is certainly not a cakewalk, however, I’m up to the task. I started my career in public service at the Kingston Public Hospital in the capacity of secretary. Then I became Personnel Officer for the Bustamante Hospital for Children; worked at Bellevue Hospital as a Personnel Manager; then Parish Personnel Manager for the Kingston and St. Andrew Health Services; then Director of Human Resources and Industrial Relations at the regional level. After that, I acted in the capacity of Regional Director for about 15 months, and was then appointed to the position of Regional Director.”
“I have a BSc and a Master’s degree in Health Services Administration. One of the requirements for my Master’s was a six-week management internship at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, Canada. It was a very rewarding experience. I observed their best practices in terms of occupational health and safety and when I returned, I implemented same in SERHA as a Director of Human Resource.”
“Leading a health organization – large or small, public or private – is very complex. Based on my experience, there is no single definition of leadership because what works for one leader might not necessarily work for another. However, everyone agrees that a true leader must be able to inspire his or her team. You must have a good attitude and control your emotions when you are guiding your team through tough times. You must also be ambitious and have a burning desire to achieve. That creates positive energy that can be contagious and will make others want to follow.”
“I would consider myself an effective leader not only because of my extensive training in health service administration or my experience over the years but also because of my dynamic leadership style, my ability to motivate and inspire as well as my hands on approach to leading. Additionally, I consider myself effective as I use the meager resources at my disposal to impact the greater good at all times. Lastly, and perhaps most salient; I am one who leads with great integrity as I do the right thing even when no one is watching.”
BVC: What are the biggest challenges to providing healthcare in Jamaica?
Golding: “Similar to other countries, Jamaica is faced with growing costs of health care services. Financial resources are limited and it takes cash to care. But irrespective of the challenges, we have made significant strides. With our limited budget and assistance from the National Health Fund and other funding partners – local and overseas – we have completed several infrastructural improvements and replaced some of our obsolete equipment and vehicles across the Region. We did major renovations and aesthetic improvements to all nine hospitals and at least 80 percent of our Health Centers. We also continue to provide training opportunities for our members of staff.
“Of particular note: we recently established a Cardiology Unit, furnished with state- of-the-art equipment at the Kingston Public Hospital. We also renovated the operating theaters and did major expansion of our Accident and Emergency Departments namely the Princess Margaret Hospital and Linstead Hospital. SERHA now boasts a state-of-the-art cardiac unit at the Bustamante Hospital for Children which was formally opened on April 15, 2019.
“Another challenge we face is poor customer service in some of our major facilities, which we are improving on through continuous training. Customer service experiences set the expectation for the quality of care. Irrespective of the fact that we have highly skilled and experienced technical and administrative staff in our facilities across SERHA, if we can’t provide a consistently high-quality experience for our patients and visitors, they won’t recognize our staff for the outstanding healthcare service they provide.
As a leader, I do ‘mystery shopping’ – I dress down and visit the hospitals, sit down in the waiting areas/cafeteria and interact with patients and visitors to get their feedback on the service. That’s a strategy I use to get primary information, because you cannot fix what you do not know. I also visit the wards and speak with the staff because they are our asset and it’s very important that steps are taken to motivate them. I created a program, ‘You Talk, I Listen,’ to give them the opportunity not only to express their concerns but also to make recommendations for the betterment of the organization and also to help them achieve their personal goals. I have an open door policy and I am very supportive of my team.”We are faced also with the challenge of attracting and retaining scarce skills; which creates a staffing gap in the technical areas. These include Intensive Care Nurses, Oncologists and Pulmonologists to name a few.”
BVC: What is on the agenda for the future of SERHA?
Golding: “Major redevelopment of the Spanish Town Hospital in St. Catherine over the next five years. We recognize that it has outgrown its capacity with all the housing development and increased population occurring in that parish. We will be looking at some infrastructure expansion for the Greater Portmore and St. Jago Park Health Centers, and will also be constructing a new Health Center for the Old Harbour and surrounding communities. These projects are part of the strategic plan of our parent company, the Ministry of Health & Wellness and will be funded and managed at the national level.
“Other activities at the top of SERHA’s agenda: we are looking to increase bed capacity of the Bustamante Hospital for Children. We see trends in certain seasons, especially during September to December, when a lot of children visit the facility with asthmatic conditions, and we experience overcrowding on the wards. We will also be expanding and modernizing the Dietary Department and the Operating Theatre at the Princess Margaret Hospital. The plans we have are realistic; we will continue our expansion projects, major equipment replacement, as well as aesthetic improvements. In terms of the reduction of disease burden, we will continue our focus on combatting non-communicable diseases through prevention and health promotion, which is in tandem with the mandate of the Ministry of Health &Wellness; we are looking to improve community mental health through training of additional technical support staff”
BVC: What are your personal career goals, going forward?
Golding: “In order to continue the advancement of my career a PhD is in the pipeline as a medium term goal. Initially I wanted to pursue a PhD in Risk Management in Healthcare for about two (2) years now however due to the exigencies and the unpredictability of the health care service I had to put it off. When I eventually start my PhD the focus would be different as it is now my ambition to pursue a PhD locally or internationally in Governance and Public Policy.
With over 15 years of experience at a managerial level in the health care field, it is my desire to become a consultant to pass on the knowledge that I have garnered over the years.
It is my ultimate goal to continue to advance the health and welfare of the Jamaican people through effective and efficient leadership. Additionally, it my dream one day to be able to impact the Caribbean and Latin America Region in terms health care management through deft leadership and good governance.”
BVC: Is there anything else you’d like to share about the importance of SERHA?
Golding: “SERHA caters to the health needs of almost 50% of the country’s population; therefore, it plays an integral role in contributing to the Ministry of Health & Wellness national goal of a healthy and stable population. Let me reiterate that my region has all the specialist public hospitals, and is often times branded as the referral region. For example, with the only paediatric hospital presently, most if not all complex cases especially cardiac related are referred from all across the country and some Caribbean countries to the Bustamante Hospital for Children. The Kingston Public Hospital is known to be the national Hospital and again, most if not all complex cases are referred from across the country to this noble facility. SERHA also plays an integral role in Jamaica achieving health related sustainable development goals. As such the SERHA Team cannot afford to slumber or sleep when it comes to the delivery of quality health care to our clients and the effective and efficient management of our facilities.”
“While not limited to SERHA, I would like to use this medium to highlight the “Adopt a Clinic Program” which was launched a year ago by the Ministry of Health and Wellness. So, to anyone reading this article who is interested, I’d like them to know that we would welcome that adoption.”
Pictured In Top Photo: Mr. Dwayne Bailey, Director of Procurement; Mr. Jaime Robinson, Director of Management Information Services; Ms. Pauline Roberts, Director of Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations; Dr. Sandra Chambers, Regional technical Director; Mr. Jareth Daley, Director of Operations and Maintenance; Ms. Maureen Golding, Regional Director SERHA; Mrs. Sophia Moodie Reid, Director of Finance; Mr. Recardo Hanson, Audit Manager; Ms. Shuwana Johnson, Public Relations Officer; Mr. Renaire Bender, Senior Projects Manager.
AT A GLANCE
Who: South East Regional Health Authority Jamaica
What: A statutory body of the Ministry of Health
Where: Kingston, Jamaica