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Gov’t spending $2b to improve public sector efficiency

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GOVERNMENT will be spending over $2 billion on some critical projects to improve efficiency in targeted areas of its operations over the next four years.

The projects are the modernisation of the work permit system in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security; improving the ICT network infrastructure at the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA); enhancing cross-border trade; the implementation of a fisheries licensing and registration system; upgrading the Government data centre; and the establishment of the Government ICT network.

The Transformation Implementation Unit in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service is managing the implementation of the projects under the Support to the Public Sector Transformation Programme.

Speaking at a signing ceremony recently, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Colette Roberts Risden, said the modernisation of the work permit system will significantly improve the customer experience for work permit applicants.

“It will also enable us to make decisions on work permits in a timelier manner and with more information. The expectation is that as the system is developed and built out, we will be linking decisions with information from our labour market, so we expect that we are not only going to be bringing about greater efficiencies, but also improvements in how we make decisions on the granting of work permits ,” Roberts Risden said.

At the same time, financial secretary Darlene Morrison emphasised that “it is very important to work together as ministries and departments to realise efficiency gains in the public sector and to improve the delivery of services to everyone who accesses public services”.

The modernisation of the work permit system will result in the re-engineering of work permit procedures and the implementation of an effective and user-friendly web-based system to facilitate significantly improved processing, review, approval and issuing of work permits in Jamaica.

The ICT network infrastructure expansion project at the CPFSA will include the procurement of equipment and services to incorporate more than 85 access points across the residential child protection sector, CPFSA parish offices and its therapeutic centre. It will also incorporate the operations of the National Children’s Registry into the child case management system, which will allow for the electronic routing of information between the registry and the team entrusted with the responsibility of investigating child abuse reports.

The cross-border trade project, meanwhile, will see the adoption of international standards for trade through streamlining and reducing the multiplicity of inspections by border regulatory agencies from three or more inspections per transaction, to two or one coordinated inspection per transaction by June 2020.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive

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Africa trip cut short saved breast cancer victim’s life

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Carol Whyte cut her trip to Africa short when she discovered a lump in one of her breasts.

A week and several tests later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“It was early detection that saved me,” she told the Jamaica Observer North & East two Fridays ago at a function put on to raise awareness in Portland.

Today, Portland resident is celebrating 19 years cancer-free and is encouraging women to not shy away from mammograms.

“I was diagnosed within a week and a week after I had surgery and I had six rounds of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation. It is not an easy journey but if God is in your mind, in your heart and you think positive and work with what you have you can move mountains.

“You can’t overdo it, you can’t go back and do the same things you used to do before, you have to work with the energy that you have. My biggest problem was the energy and I had a full-time job and I had to take care of myself but I did it.

“I have always done the every year mammogram and that is very important and I try not to miss one because early detection is the key and also finding good people in your lives when you are going through it. If you don’t want to talk to your family call the different organisations and find somebody to talk to because it can be like a death sentence but it is not,” she shared.

Though the average age of women diagnosed with breast cancer in Jamaica is 52, which is eight years younger than the global average of 60 years, according to the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Whyte was diagnosed at 40.

Approximately 60 per cent of women in Jamaica diagnosed with breast cancer are between the ages of 25 and 59, while about 25 per cent is over the age of 60.

“It is like a car accident and nobody leaves this earth without something and what you get is how you deal with it. I try to do the best I can every day and not try to overdo it,” Whyte noted.

“I worked at a hospital and we had an awareness date and some people get afraid because they think they going to catch it and I remember some of my friends would laugh at me because they would say, ‘You work out all the time. You eat good, so how come you get it?’ I say it is just one of those things, but I am not going to let that stop me; with God’s help, I’m going to continue to live.

“I recommend that persons go and do the mammogram and don’t stay away from it. It is better to go and do it than stay away and don’t wait until you are 50 and then find out that you have two weeks to live. If they were doing the test the possibility is that it can be detected and they are alive. Do your checks annually and even if your physician does not recommend it go and do it because they cannot deny you, it is for your own personal protection,” she continued.

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Over $1m raised for mammograms for Portland women

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The Sir Henry Morgan Angling Association (SHMAA) says it has raised just over $1 million to pay for mammograms for Portland women.

The announcement was made at SHMAA’s 56th Blue Marlin International tournament at Errol Flynn Marina in Port Antonio, Portland.

The money will be handed over to the Action Ann Foundation.

“We have a special donation of $60,000 from SHMAA and the National Health Fund, another $60,000 to the Action Ann Foundation to provide free mammogram tests for the women of Portland. I am putting it out on the floor for others to donate,” tournament director Maxim Rochester said.

This was followed by pledges totalling just over $1 million.

Member of Parliament (MP) for Portland Eastern Ann-Marie Vaz noted that the contribution is a “fitting one” for the month of October.

October is observed as breast cancer awareness month.

“One of the issues that most Members of Parliament face in the rural areas is our women are afraid of the mammogram and have been afraid, so they never go to get a mammogram,” Vaz pointed out.

“Breast cancer, as we know, with early detection, can be cured and you live a healthy life,” she added.

Vaz, in the same breath, shared that it was her husband Daryl, Member of Parliament for Portland Western, who encouraged her to get tested.

“My personal story is that about three years ago I went to do my mammogram. My husband is the one who took me to the doctor. So men encourage your women to go and get their mammogram; it’s a partnership.

“I went along because I [thought] I was just going to get a lunch date with my husband. Lo and behold they found a [lump] in my left breast. This is the first time I’m publicly telling my story and my world stopped in that moment because you are faced with this crisis. [It wasn’t] until I got back the diagnosis that I was clear that I started encouraging women to do the mammogram because it saves lives,” Vaz said.

The MP said with the money raised, Portland women will be transported into Kingston to have tests done the Action Ann Foundation.

Portland is currently without a mammogram machine.

“I am so thrilled and my undying gratitude to you all,” she said.

— Everard Owen

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive

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Blue Mountain fun

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Blue Mountain fun

Zipline course added to BM Tours’ range of activities

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, October 14, 2019

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Operations at Blue Mountain Bicycle Tours (BMTours) in Portland have expanded to include zipline activities, Manager Rohan McLeod has revealed.

In an interview with the Jamaica Observer North & East last Wednesday, McLeod described the new addition as “unique and exciting”.

Blue Mountain Bicycle Tours is a sustainable community-based tourism initiative which began in 1991.

“Our zipline is 1,000 feet long and it is the longest continuous zip line in Jamaica. All the others go from one landing to the next but ours is just one straight thing across,” McLeod stated.

He boasted, too, that it is the highest zipline in Jamaica, primarily because of geography and height above ground.

Activities are expected to begin before the next winter tourist season Observer North & East was told.

“It will be our newest attraction to the Blue Mountain. We wanted to add a difference because we have been doing the bicycle tours for [almost] 30 years and so we decided to add zipline to our repertoire to make things more exciting. We’re also looking at, for the future, a rock climbing wall to make it one big, fun thing in the Blue Mountains,” he shared.

While locally, the business enjoys “tremendous” support, McLeod noted that the company’s clientele is mostly made up of tourists from the United States, with a few coming in from Europe and Canada.

“Based on the feedback we’ve been getting I think our zipline business is going to go very, very far. It’s going to be huge. Every week we’ve been getting calls from locals and persons from overseas, even on our Facebook page, persons contacting us asking how soon because they are eager to come. Persons are really geared up and ready to go,” McLeod stressed.

The custom-designed zipline, surrounded by unspoilt mountain environment, is in keeping with the company’s eco-awareness.

Each course offers panoramic views of mist-covered peaks and pristine, emerald valleys, the manager promised.

While not disclosing the figure for the heavy expansion, McLeod noted that it was a “tidy sum”.

That includes the cost to train team members, as well as acquiring international certification.

“Myself and the rest of the team have been suitably trained. We went through 16 weeks of training under the guidance of a team from Costa Rica and got our international certification. The safety gear that we use is very expensive, with one single set costing almost US$1,000. One of those safety gears can hold weight of up to 600 pounds.

“We also do tandem ziplining, where if someone comes and they are a little bit nervous one of our certified guides will be able to take the person across,” said McLeod.

The end of the course is topped off with a trek to a waterfall within close proximity.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive

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