Sick kids to get intensive attention

By Marlon Madden, Barbados Today

Paediatric care in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean is about to get a major boost.

Medical care for sick children at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital is about to be overhauled in a seven-year initiative to create a regional paediatric centre, officials have announced.

The “Centre of Paediatric Excellence for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean” is to improve diagnosis, treatment and care for children affected by paediatric cancers and serious blood disorders, they said.

Under the initiative, the QEH paediatric care ward is to be refurbished and there will be procurement of furniture and up-to-date medical equipment.

Patient and family areas at all polyclinics are also to be overhauled and the medical equipment is to be upgraded.

Forty paediatric nurses are be trained in a special programme and deployed across the health system while four doctors are to be trained in targeted, high-need paediatric sub-specialties through fellowship at the Hospital for Sick Children. There will be support for six international observer ships in quality improvement.

Officials have also announced that three catalyst grants will be made available; two local post-doctoral fellowships in paediatric research; completion of a national childhood obesity surveillance; there will be eight high-priority clinical quality improvement initiatives; and the establishment of a patient amenity fund to support families from the East Caribbean to access care at the QEH.

The initiative is being carried out by the SickKids Foundation in Canada and the LesLois Shaw Foundation in association with Government, the University of the West Indies and the Clinton Foundation, with support from a number of partners including several commercial banks.

During the launch at the Ilaro Court on Monday, High Commissioner for Canada to Barbados Marie Legault stressed the importance of access to professional health care services to save lives.

“In Canada, a child with cancer has 90 per cent chance of surviving the disease. But here in the Caribbean its goes down a to 50 per cent chance. And according to the Pan-American Health Organization in Barbados children have a 69 per cent rate. This is not a good ratio,” she said.

“The Caribbean region ranks fifth worldwide for cancer incidents and fourth for mortality in the world, which is quite high. Barbados, despite its small size, has the 20th highest standardize rate of cancer globally and the second highest standardize rate in the Caribbean after the Bahamas,” said Legault, pointing out that this was evidence that there was still a lot of work to be done.

Officials pointed out that infant (one year and younger) mortality rate was reduced by about half, from 26.9 per 1,000 to 14.2 per 1,000 over the past four years.

The newborn death rate (the first 28 days of birth) was reduced by about two-thirds, from 24.2 per 1,000 in 1976 to 8.8 per 1,000 in 2016, which officials have attributed to the high level of training of medical practitioners.

Chair of the LeLois Shar Foundation Virginia Shaw Hutchinson said Bridgetown had “all the foundation elements in place” for the initiative to take place here.

“It is our hope to create a modern environment for patient and family while establishing a centre of innovation for paediatric research, education and care. I believe this partnership will have a lasting impact,” she said.

Meanwhile, Executive Chair of the QEH Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland welcomed the programme, saying it will take the QEH one step closer to achieving its vision of being the “premier provider of tertiary healthcare an exemplar of good corporate governance and employer of first choice in Barbados”.

“Recognize the state and taxpayers cannot do this work alone, therefore philanthropy and gifts of this nature are fundamental to our ability to achieve this transformative vision,” said Bynoe-Sutherland, adding that she was hoping the hospital could attract other donors.

“Overtime we see this partnership assisting us to reduce the need for sending children overseas,” she added.

During the event, Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that she had asked the National Cultural Foundation to come up with some “acoustic and heart-moving events” on the grounds of Ilaro Court in an effort to raise funds “to help children of this nation”.