$50-m prosthesis programme

Government will be pumping $50 million into a new programme that will provide prosthesis to Jamaicans who have lost their limbs, enabling them to return to optimal productivity and social participation.

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton made the announcement during his contribution to the 2023/24 Sectoral Debate in Parliament on Wednesday, noting that the ministry will be partnering with the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities to provide prostheses.

The New Limb, New Life initiative, as Tufton has named it, has its genesis in the Jamaica Observer’s story on the plight of double amputee pineapple farmer Andrew Nelson published last month.

Tufton, after reading the story, made arrangements for Nelson to get prosthetic legs.

“I read the story in your publication and was inspired by his industriousness and felt that we should give him the best opportunity to succeed,” Tufton had told the Observer at the time.

In his address in Parliament on Wednesday, Tufton stressed that amputees endure a difficult life due to the condition.

“One of the consequences of chronic diseases within a high-trauma society is the number of Jamaicans who have lost limbs or have been maimed and are unable to integrate themselves into productive living,” he said.

“When you lose an arm or a leg from diabetes or a road traffic accident, not only is this a source of sadness and grief for you, your family or loved ones, but it is also a life-restricting condition,” he added.

Pointing to a 2019 study published by the National Library of Medicine, National Centre for Biotechnology Information, Tufton said socially, 90 per cent of amputees no longer practised leisure activities and at the economic level, 87 per cent had a decreased monthly income.

“Factors that bear a direct correlation to the functional outcome of patients were the level of amputation. In other words, when persons are impacted by conditions such as diabetes, where they have to remove the lower limbs, there is a direct impact on the quality of life of the individual and a net negative economic impact on the person, the household, and the wider labour market,” he said.

“Let me remind us that the provision of health care is the provision of wellness. Therefore, we must provide interventions and strategies for the thousands of Jamaicans who are negatively impacted by the outcomes of non-communicable diseases, one of which is amputation,” he added.

Data provided to the Observer by Tufton show that approximately 300 people undergo amputation across the island – 25 per cent above the knee, 70 per cent below the knee, and five per cent an upper limb.

Additionally, 80 per cent of amputations result in diabetes and 20 per cent in arterial disease.

“We will show compassion to those who need a second chance, but we will use their examples to encourage other Jamaicans on prevention,” said Tufton in Parliament.