The Registrar General’s Department (RGD) childbirth bedside registration programme has been hailed as a regional best practice.
Charlton McFarlane, the RGD’s chief executive officer, made the claim during an interview on Jamaica Information Service-produced television programme, Get the Facts on Sunday (July 3).
According to McFarlane, the initiative, which facilitates the early registration of babies born within birthing centres and hospitals, has so far also been implemented in Grenada and St Lucia.
The RGD CEO said that, before the programme was launched in 2007, there was a gap in registration coverage for births, which was less than 80 per cent as large numbers of parents were leaving hospitals and rearing their children without registering them.’
“The Government realised that this would have [impacted] our social programmes and other development imperatives and so the policy directive at the time was centred on improving registration,” McFarlane said.
“It’s really a development imperative as you can appreciate [that] a birth certificate forms the basis for several other social and economic benefits. Not having one could lead to a child being excluded or having difficulties obtaining a passport or even entering schools.”
MAJORITY OF BIRTH TAKING PLACE IN HOSPITALS, BIRTHING CENTRES
McFarlane noted that the RGD, having realised that the majority of births were taking place in hospitals and birthing centres, decided to take its registration services to these facilities.
Explaining the process, McFarlane shared that “once the mother gives birth, a RGD registration officer/assistant… will visit the wards at various times throughout the day and conduct a basic interview at the bedside to gather information on the child for registration, which almost provides us with instant verification”.
The officer/assistant is stationed at the public hospitals full-time, and visits the private facilities daily depending on the volume of births.
McFarlane further outlined that, “while we get the information from the mother, the hospitals have their logbooks, which contain information that is used to increase the credibility of the information that was collected”.
He added: “Our staff are not medical practitioners and, as such, they are not privy to someone’s medical information. However, we can ask the hospital staff to assist us with verifying some of the information that might not be totally accurate.”
McFarlane said the RGD was looking at ways to improve the efficiency of the 15-year-old programme, one of which is transitioning to capturing data electronically.
“Right now, we still rely largely on books. We piloted at Spanish Town Hospital, and Kingston Public Hospital to a lesser extent, the use of tablets to capture information,” he pointed out.
GREAT EFFICIENCY GAINS SEEN IN PILOT
He said the benefit of using the tablets to capture information is that it reaches the RGD’s database immediately.
“This is one of the great efficiency gains that we are seeing in the pilot, and we know that we will continue to see as the programme rolls out nationally. The aim of all of this is to move to the provision of digital birth certificates so that parents will be able to leave the hospital with their child’s birth certificate,” he noted.
To further the electronic capture of data at the bedside, the RGD has received 60 tablets under the National Identification System (NIDS) project.
The RGD was the only repository in Jamaica for birth, marriage, still birth and death records.