By Carlena Knight
Residents in the communities of Villa, Point, Yorks, McKinnons, Lower Gambles and Fort Road will soon be able to access free primary healthcare services after the Villa Polyclinic was fully commissioned yesterday.
Services at the 24-hour facility will be rolled out to the public from Monday.
The news was revealed by the Health Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Ena Henry who spoke briefly during the clinic’s opening ceremony on Thursday, as the globe marked World Health Day.
According to Henry, a long list of services will be offered to the general public with some coming on stream on April 11.
“Here at the Villa Polyclinic the services will include nursing care, child health, adult health, chronic disease management, dental services, paediatric services, nutrition services, environmental health and diagnostic services such as ultra-sounds, EKG and X-rays,” Henry said.
“Other services that are to be added include pharmaceutical and laboratory services. Additionally, training in food handling and safety, taking charge of your health and meal planning will all be offered, as well as other activities supported by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO),” she added.
The clinic is equipped with modern diagnostic machines and other equipment that will enable examination of eyes, dental procedures, and treatment of diabetes, hypertension and other diseases.
It is for those reasons and more why Henry is encouraging persons in the communities to take advantage of its services.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who is also MP for the area, not only thanked the Chinese government for their “gift” but also thanked the health minister and everyone in his ministry for their tireless work.
He admonished that, along with the wide array of services that will be provided, educational sessions will also be available for the public so that they can be better equipped to manage their health conditions.
Browne further said that in order for the country to bounce back from the perils of the Covid-19 pandemic, the health of the nation must be addressed and improved.
Health Minister Sir Molwyn Joseph said the clinic is a “major leap” in providing primary healthcare to the nation.
He also expressed the hope that a similar facility will be constructed in the south of the island as the Gaston Browne-led administration continues the quest to decentralise healthcare services in Antigua and Barbuda.
Also present at the ceremony was the Principal Nursing Officer Margaret Smith who thanked the Chinese and the government for their efforts in seeing the new clinic come to fruition.
She also noted that the “work has not ended in Villa” as there are several other clinics across the island that “need to be upgraded” as the nation moves to improve its healthcare offerings.
The Villa Polyclinic was constructed in 2020 in the hopes of providing basic healthcare services to the people of Villa and Point and the nearby communities in order to alleviate the burden placed on the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre.
However, with the advent of the coronavirus, those plans had to be put on the backburner as the clinic was used as one of the main hubs for administering over 20,000 Covid-19 vaccines and 9,000 tests for both public sector workers and students.
Those initial plans will now be realised as the facility will replace the Bishopsgate Clinic which has been in a dilapidated state for some time and, due to its size, could not adequately serve the nearby communities.
“The time has come for the facility to function in its full capacity,” said Dr Teri-Ann Joseph, the Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO), on Thursday.
The commissioning of the Villa Polyclinic follows the opening of the Glanvilles Polyclinic in February.
In fact, Minister Joseph hinted in a previous interview at the possibility of minor surgeries similar to those offered at the main hospital being conducted at both the Glanvilles and Villa sites.
He further mentioned that the clinics will work hand in hand with the hospital as some of the specialised medical personnel will be attached to the facilities as well.