“We Must Be In It Together”

Public-private partnerships help Jamaica overcome COVID-19 challenges

LHSS Project
3 min readNov 17, 2023
Jamaica Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Dunstan Bryan praised the USAID-supported public-private partnerships at a meeting in September 2023. “These initiatives have strengthened health systems and have enabled us to be far more resilient as we go forward as a nation,” he said. (Photo: Horace Freeman for the USAID LHSS Project)

Two years ago, as it struggled to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus and get people vaccinated, the Government of Jamaica sought to leverage the potential of the country’s private health care providers. The USAID Local Health System Sustainability Project supported the effort by providing grants and capacity strengthening support to nine of those private sector partners.

The results went well beyond the government’s expectations. Supported by grants totaling $700,000, nine private health care entities overcame rampant vaccine hesitancy, misinformation, and disinterest in COVID-19 to administer over 17,000 COVID-19 vaccines.

The experience made a profound impression on Dunstan Bryan, Permanent Secretary of Jamaica’s Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOH). “Partnership is a critical part of where we are going with public health post-COVID,” he said at a September 2023 event marking the close of the initiative. “It has trampled on the old paradigm that we must do it ourselves at all times. The new paradigm says that we must be in it together.”

Capacity-Strengthening Approach Proves Key

The success of the public-private initiative speaks to the power of LHSS’s approach to engaging Jamaica’s private health sector. Beyond merely providing funds to the nine grantees, LHSS structured the grants to include capacity strengthening assistance to help the private providers be effective partners to the MOH.

LHSS engaged grantees in a participatory process that enabled them to define their own capacity-strengthening needs and priorities. Some needed equipment to meet ministry standards, including thermometers, refrigerators, tablets, and laptops. Others hired additional staff so they could attend to more patients.

For most of the grantees, this was their first time being a government contractor, so LHSS also provided administrative and organizational support to enable them to keep adequate financial records and report on performance. Honing these capabilities helped them contribute meaningfully to the ministry’s vaccination effort while also positioning them to participate in future government-led partnerships.

Reflecting on their experiences, grantees said that consistent communication and frequent and accessible support from the LHSS team boosted their confidence. This confidence saw some grantees go above and beyond what was required of them. Windsor Wellness, a small doctor’s office, organized community engagement activities to encourage vaccination in two major parishes with high rates of infection, while Online Medics, another small practice, leased a facility in rural Jamaica to vaccinate hard-to-reach populations.

Both examples show the innovation of the private health sector when the right support systems are integrated into public-private partnership arrangements. As MOH Permanent Secretary Bryan shared, “Successes are not measured only in the number of vaccines administered. They are also embedded in the bureaucratic arrangements that are necessary to have the collaboration be functional.”

Expanding Horizons in Health Care Collaboration

LHSS also gave capacity-strengthening support through grants and technical assistance to Health Connect Jamaica (HCJ), a private health care provider network that includes clinicians, physiologists, laboratories, and pharmacies. This type of provider network is new to Jamaica, but presents opportunities for a strong public-private partnership arrangements at the national level.

HCJ was established to support the country’s HIV response by providing free or discounted HIV-related services within the private sector. With LHSS support, HCJ expanded their services to include COVID-19 vaccine administration and COVID-19 case management, and added 20 more private providers to their network, for a total of 150.

LHSS’s support included a co-assessment of HCJ’s operational capacity that enabled the LHSS team to identify and provide the support HCJ needed to achieve its goal of becoming the network of choice for private sector integration with the Ministry of Health. LHSS also worked with HCJ to develop its network expansion strategy, improve internal functions required to serve as a government contractor, and develop a communication strategy for reaching its target audience.

As the Ministry moves towards a more inclusive and collaborative health system, the lessons from LHSS can act as a framework for developing new contractual arrangements. Establishing relationships with the private sector starts with a willingness to collaborate, and an acknowledgment that effective collaboration goes beyond an intended outcome. It requires a systematic approach to recognizing the capacity and potential of the sector and creating an enabling environment for private sector partners to thrive.



LHSS Project

USAID’s Local Health System Sustainability Project helps countries achieve sustainable, self-financed health systems that offer quality health care for all.