Once a month, 70-year-old Miriam Salah walks 5 km from her home in Baqa’a camp in Jordan to the Baqa’a Main Health Centre to refill her prescriptions. Mrs. Salah walks with a cane and suffers from many of the health complaints of her generation, including knee problems and various aches and pains.
On a recent visit to the Health Centre for a quarterly assessment, Mrs. Salah, already visibly exhausted from the walk, faced several hours of waiting and shuffling from one building to another to visit the pharmacy, the intake nurse and her doctor.
“It is a long day for me,” she said, about three hours into her visit to the Health Centre. “I am looking forward to the new building, which will shorten my visits.”
In an effort to improve health-care services and ease the experience of patients like Mrs. Salah, Director of UNRWA Operations Roger Davies, together with the Deputy Chief of Mission for the Embassy of the United States of America in Jordan, Henry Wooster, broke ground in a ceremony on 16 March 2016 to launch the construction and expansion of the new Baqa’a Main Health Centre.
“I am very excited about the new building,” said Mrs. Salah. “With everything in one building, it will be much easier for me.”
Dr. Nedal Barakat, who carried out Mrs. Salah’s medical assessment, explained that some of his patients go between buildings up to five times in a single visit. This can be a challenge for patients with non-communicable diseases, but is especially difficult for the elderly, persons with disabilities and mothers with newborn babies, especially when the weather is poor.
Another patient, Jumaa Asha, 55, said he was pleased with the Health Centre’s queue system, which has organized and reduced wait times, but added that the separated services remains the biggest problem. “I will be pleased with the new Health Centre, as this will save time and effort, since the lab, pharmacy, medical officer and the nurse will all be in the same building,” he said.
“Putting the services of all five buildings in one comprehensive Health Centre will allow medical officers to provide better care to patients,” said Dr. Luai Khatib, head of the Baqa’a Main Health Centre. “Providing comprehensive primary health care in one building will be attractive to patients and will encourage them to come to the Health Centre to receive the proper services at the proper time. It also will improve contact time with doctors and decrease waiting time.”
The Baqa’a Main Health Centre, a compound comprised of five separate buildings, serves more than 80,000 Palestine refugees in Jordan’s largest camp. The new construction and expansion will replace three older buildings constructed in 1987, with new purpose-built structures that take into consideration the need for access for persons with disabilities, enhanced building safety, greening and the full implementation of the UNRWA health reform.
The US$ 1.75 million project, made possible through a generous contribution from the United States, is expected to be completed in January 2017.