by Douglas McIntosh, Jamaica Information Service Reporter, 12 May 2011.
More than 60,000 Jamaicans have been screened under the bi-lateral eye care programme, 'Miracle Operation', jointly administered locally by the Health Ministries of Jamaica and Cuba, since the initiative's establishment in 2005.
Cuban Ambassador to Jamaica, His Excellency Yuri Gala Lopez, says the benefits accruing have mainly been surgeries, of which just over 6,000 have been performed, free of charge, over the past six years, in Cuba and Jamaica.
Speaking at a special welcome reception at the Norman Manley International Airport, Kingston, last week for some 16 Cuban nurses recruited to work in the local public health system, Mr. Lopez said between 2010 and now, over 1,700 surgeries have been performed at the Jamaica/Cuba Eye Care Centre, located in Kingston.
From left: Nurse Lisbey Garcia Paz, Yaima Gonzales, third secretary of embassy of Cuba; Elys Maria Chapelin and Olivia Vazquoz at yesterday's welcoming ceremony for Cuban nurses at the Norman Manley International Airport. Gladstone Taylor/Photographer
"During 2010, the centre performed more than 1,200 surgeries on Jamaican patients, while in 2011 they have performed over 500 surgeries so far. I think this is a very important example of the South-South co-operation that Jamaica and Cuba have been enjoying over the years," he said. The bilateral partnership between Jamaica and Cuba has seen the former benefitting significantly from medical expertise and technical co-operation provided by the Spanish-speaking nation.
Currently, more than 130 health specialists are stationed across the Health Ministry's four regions, providing a range of services. The personnel include nurses who currently account for some 120 of the cadre. The latest batch of nurses is the second to be recruited since the start of the year, following 35 in January.
Ambassador Lopez said the arrival of the nurses "reaffirms the dynamism of that bi-lateral programme of co-operation, which allows the presence in Jamaica of more than 130 health specialists all across the island."
He disclosed that the Health Ministries of Jamaica and Cuba have also been having dialogue on the possibility of increasing the presence of Cuban biomedical personnel locally. He recounted that a contingent of Jamaican nurses visited Cuba in January, to participate in a training programme on nephrology.
"I think they have enjoyed their stay in Cuba, and that it was actually a very fruitful experience that we are looking forward to continue expanding, if possible. Let me stress that those bi-lateral programmes are contributing to strengthening, even more, the bonds between the peoples and governments of Jamaica and Cuba which, over the years, have been based on strong ties of friendship and co-operation," Ambassador Lopez said.
See also: 86 Jamaicans Leave for Eye Surgeries in Cuba Next Week, JIS, 15 February 2008.