A plaque, honouring healthcare workers who have toiled in the COVID-19 pandemic and those dying in the line of duty, was recently unveiled at the Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ), on Windsor Avenue in Kingston.
These include four physicians paying the ultimate price – Dr. Lenworth Jackson, Dr. Richard Whitelocke, Dr. Robert Robinson, and Dr. Mario Medley – for whom a 30-second period of silence was observed.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, and Chair, Healthcare Workers Appreciation Month National Planning Committee, Professor Denise Eldemire Shearer, headed the guests joining MAJ President, Dr Brian James, and other executive members for the unveiling ceremony.
Dr. Bisasor-McKenzie, in her remarks, highlighted the risks healthcare workers experience daily and the sacrifices they make in the line of duty, noting that these were amplified during the pandemic.
“These risks are, many times, unknown and seen. So, it is our task to be in a constant state of preparedness while providing compassionate care,” she said while acknowledging that “even with the best of efforts, we are exposed, and it is an extremely difficult balance to achieve”.
The CMO said the pandemic has, however, highlighted healthcare workers’ resilience and shown that “they are true warriors and deserving of the acclamation of being called heroes”.
“Our healthcare workers have gotten up each day, tired, stressed, burdened, fearful, and anxious, but determined to serve and protect. Many have fallen along the way, some in battle and some on the peripheries of the battlefield. The war may not be over, but because of good and steadfast soldiers, we have successfully navigated many battles and have protected thousands of people,” Dr. Bisasor-McKenzie noted.
Against this background, the CMO said the commemorative plaque would serve as a longstanding reminder of a “battle well fought [by] a resilient health workforce”.
“It stands as a testimony that we are proud of the work that we have done, to the part we have played, and the important role of the Medical Association of Jamaica in getting us to where we are today,” she noted.
Dr. Bisasor-McKenzie said the Ministry and nation were grateful to them, adding that the plaque’s dedication marked “another [way] that we say thanks to our healthcare workers… our healthcare heroes”.
In his remarks, Dr. James said the plaque’s unveiling was about “putting down a marker” and “acknowledging the herculean efforts of our colleagues and other healthcare workers in the face of this [COVID-19] pestilence”.
“We want to document our appreciation in a visible and enduring fashion. Anyone visiting this place 100 years from now… in 2122… should be able to feel our gratitude and our respect for our colleagues who sacrificed themselves, their families and loved ones to care for a nation in crisis,” he argued.
The MAJ President further said that the names and contributions of the four specially mentioned doctors to the COVID-19 battle “will lay forever in our consciousness and help guide our forward path”.
Professor Eldemire Shearer, in saluting the workers, said: “You have been an important part of this fight [against COVID-19] and we honour and thank you for your contribution [and] that of your families as well, because we cannot forget those families who stuck by you through thick and thin.”
Jamaica Medical Doctors Association (JMDA) President, Dr. Mindi Fitz Henley, said the organisation was “very grateful to the MAJ [and] Ministry of Health and Wellness [among others] for continuing to honour our doctors”.