In Jamaican hospitals and health centers, a new way to keep medicines cool

When members of the Jamaican government visited Direct Relief in the fall of 2019, they said something that intrigued the leaders of the organization.

Juliet Holness, Jamaican Member of Parliament and First Lady, and Everton W. Anderson, CEO of Jamaica’s National Health Fund, explained that the country “wants to improve and strengthen cold chain capacity”, said recalled Genevieve Bitter, director of Direct Relief. program operations. (“Cold chain” refers to the equipment and procedures used to safely store and transport heat-sensitive drugs.)

Direct Relief had previously supported health centers in Puerto Rico with 164 refrigerators. Tropical storms posed a serious and ongoing threat to the power of the Caribbean island, and climate change only made matters worse. Jamaica, also vulnerable to storms, seemed like an ideal candidate for similar support.

But with one significant change: This time the organization would provide refrigerators with less environmental impact, said Gordon Willcock, deputy director of emergency response at Direct Relief. “We also recognize that global warming creates more disasters and creates more vulnerability… We don’t want to create long-term challenges by contributing more to global warming.”

Refrigeration, Willcock explained, has become an increasingly important part of the medical supply chain. “There are more and more humanitarian cold chain products,” he said.

Jamaican hospitals in particular needed medical-grade refrigerators capable of storing large quantities of insulin and cancer drugs, said Keron Mais, senior director of pharmaceutical service delivery for the country’s National Health Fund.

“We didn’t have a lot of medical-grade refrigerators in hospital pharmacies, and that was important because you would want the technology that comes with a medical-grade refrigerator,” including the ability to adjust the temperature and get alerts if a fridge temperature went out of range, But said.

Direct Relief and the National Health Fund organized the distribution of 20 low-global-warming-potential refrigerators, worth more than $140,000, to 14 hospitals and six health centers across the island.

A map showing the location of medical grade refrigerators provided by Direct Relief across Jamaica. (Direct relief image)

“This is truly a significant contribution to the public health system in Jamaica,” said Anderson, CEO of the National Health Fund. “Safety and quality are of the utmost importance to the NHF and these high quality refrigerators… will enhance cold chain capacity for essential medicines.”

Staffers “love the visual temperature display and alerts,” Mais said. In addition, pharmacies can order more drugs because the refrigerators are large, which lowers delivery costs and allows them to have more essential drugs on hand.

“It’s impacted patient care because we’re able to store more medications,” said Carol Staple, chief pharmacist at Cornwall Regional Hospital. “It’s a big plus for the staff here at the hospital pharmacy.”

“It’s been so much easier and more useful for us to organize our cold chain items…and also to organize and monitor our stock level and see exactly what we have on hand,” said said Simone Palmer, a pharmacy technician at Princess Margaret Hospital. pharmacy.

This is not the first time that Direct Relief and the Jamaica National Health Fund have worked together. Among other medical supports, Direct Relief provided Jamaica with factor VIII, a protein that hemophilia patients lack and that helps blood clot. “The demand is very sporadic, because you never know when [patients] will need it,” Mais said.

The organization also provided Survanta, a drug used to treat respiratory distress syndrome in premature babies. But recalled that one infant, the child of a medical warehouse worker, was able to receive the drugs and survived.

A Direct Relief staff member speaks with pharmaceutical staff at a Jamaican hospital.  (Photo courtesy of the National Health Fund)
Direct Relief’s Geneviève Bitter, Director of Program Operations for Direct Relief, speaks with pharmaceutical staff at a Jamaican hospital. (Photo courtesy of the National Health Fund)

“Partnering with Direct Relief is important to the NHF and to the people of Jamaica, as the entity has become one of Jamaica’s leading sources of pharmaceutical, medical and personal care item donations, which has contributed to the stable supply of essential medicines to public hospitals,” Anderson said.

Asked about working with Direct Relief, Mais said: “They are very flexible and very responsive to our needs. And we also get items with good expiration dates.

Maria J. Book