Tue | Aug 14, 2018

Health Bulletin

Published:Wednesday | March 11, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Dr Fenton Ferguson, Minister of Health
Children at play
A health worker administers a measles vaccine
David Gordon (second right), senior medical technologist, shows how the equipment works to Richard Byles (right), president and CEO of Sagicor Group; Professor Jennifer Knight-Madden, director of Sickle Cell Unit; and Donovan Perkins, CEO of Sagicor Investments. The occasion was the presentation of the Resolve Isoelectric Focusing System and a D-10 Hemoglobin Analyser System to the Sickle Cell Unit, Tropical Medical Research Institute (TMRI) at the University Hospital of the West Indies recently. The Sickle Cell Unit was one of the Sagicor Sigma Corporate 5K Run’s 2014 beneficiaries. The equipment was purchased through part proceeds of the $21,679,075 raised from last year'’s run.

Telemedicine centre opens at Bustamante Hospital

A telemedicine centre has opened at the Bustamante Hospital for Children, which will facilitate video consultation among doctors for effective diagnosis and treatment of children with cancers and blood disorders.

The state-of-the-art facility, established at a cost of CAD$8 million, is an initiative of SickKids International, in partnership with Scotiabank and Quick Play Media. It is one of six facilities established throughout the region, with centres already opened in the Bahamas, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The Bustamante centre is equipped with a Polycom Group 700 videoconferencing system, two big-screen monitors, along with all applicable mounting gear, cabling and infrastructure.

Doctors in Jamaica will, via this technology, converse with specialists in hospitals in Canada, and across the Caribbean, to compare case studies, formulate diagnoses and discuss best-care scenarios for patients.

Director of McCaig Magee Family Medical and the SickKids-Caribbean Initiative, Dr Victor Blanchette, said the project seeks to share resources, tools and knowledge, to build capacity in the Caribbean to achieve, and even surpass, the 80 per cent cure rate for paediatric cancers in Canada.

"Working together, our goal is to identify and to eliminate, wherever possible, existing challenges in the diagnosis, treatment and management of children with cancer and blood disorders. We wish for every child in the participating countries to have equal access to timely diagnosis and effective treatment, with the hope of curing these devastating diseases," he said.

Board Chairman for the South East Regional Health Authority, Dr Andrei Cooke, said the establishment of a telemedicine centre in Jamaica meant. The country was one step closer to first world best practices in patient care.

Noting that the Bustamante Hospital for Children sees about 25 to 30 paediatric cancer cases annually, Dr Cooke noted that the centre will now allow doctors to diagnose and treat these cases in a more timely manner.

The telemedicine project involves hundreds of health-care professionals in the Caribbean and Canada, to facilitate case consultations and knowledge transfer.

In addition to the opportunities for faster diagnosis, the centres can be used for education and capacity building of medical professionals.


Ja Cancer Society to screen 350 indigent for cervical cancer


The Jamaica Cancer Society (JCS) is the recipient of a US$9,500 grant awarded by the Healthy Caribbean Coalition, funds received from the American Cancer Society Global Health Programme, in support of its Caribbean Civil Society Cervical Cancer Prevention Initiative.

This is aimed at making cervical-cancer screening accessible to all Caribbean women.

"The Jamaica Cancer Society is very happy to be the recipient of this grant, which will go a long way in strengthening our capacity to expand our cervical-cancer screening and public health-education programme to underserved Jamaican women," said Yulit Gordon, executive director of JCS.

"Cancer care and mortality rates remain a staggering burden for our society, and we still lag behind in the number of persons accessing the available screening services to detect cervical cancer in its early stage when the chances of survival are high."

In 2014, JCS screened more than 8,000 women for cervical cancer and are looking to screen 10,000 women in 2015. There are more than 350,000 women at risk for this cancer, and early detection is the only cure.

The society continues to stress the importance of healthy-lifestyle practices to minimise risk to the disease. The cost to do a pap smear is $2,500. The cost to treat cervical cancer can run an individual well past $1 million.

Cancer Awareness Month is in April and the society has encouraged women to visit its clinic at 16 Lady Musgrave Road, St Andrew, and branches in St Ann and St Elizabeth for screening, and to participate in the public health-education programmes, which are free to all.


Immunise to prevent measles - MoH


The Ministry of Health has advised the public that vaccination is the only way to prevent measles in persons who have not had the disease.

In light of the current outbreak of measles in the United States, which has now spread to 17 states, the ministry has embarked on an approximately $54.4 million measles-prevention campaign to ensure that all children between one and six years old are given both required doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

The first dose of the MMR vaccine is generally given at age 12 months and provides approximately 93 per cent immunity. The second dose, now being given at 18 months, will take it up to about 98 per cent.

Measles has been eliminated in Jamaica since 1991, through the success of a robust immunisation programme and, as a result, a large percentage of the population is not familiar with it, and would not likely have the immunity that comes from acquiring the disease.

Measles is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract, and spreads quite easily through the coughs, sneezes and even breathing of an infected person. It may also be spread through contact with saliva (kissing) and nasal secretions. It can remain alive on surfaces for up to two hours.

Complications from contracting the disease include pneumonia and can lead to blindness, brain damage, deafness and death, especially in young children.

Symptoms include: high fever, dry cough, runny nose, sore throat, inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis), aches, diarrhoea, white spots in the mouth and red skin rash.


Sickle Cell Trust receives life-saving equipment from 2014 Sagicor



Sigma Corporate Run


Medical equipment valued at $7.7 million, purchased from part-proceeds raised by the 2014 Sagicor Sigma Corporate Run, was handed over to the Sickle Cell Unit, Tropical Medicine Research Institute (TMRI) recently.

Among the items presented was a Resolve Isoelectric Focusing Systemand a D-10(tm) Hemoglobin Analyser System at the unit's University of the West Indies Mona campus.

The Sickle Cell Unit is one of four childcare health facilities that received support from proceeds of the $21.6m raised from the 16th staging of the 5K run, walk and wheelchair event. The other charities include the Sickle Cell Trust in Mandeville, the Special Care Nursery at the University Hospital of the West Indies and the Jamaica Kidney Kids Foundation.

Richard Byles, president and chief executive officer, at Sagicor Group Jamaica, said, "Sickle cell is a disease that has touched the lives of many Jamaicans, either directly or indirectly. The Sickle Cell Unit, TMRI, has done good work and we are happy to lend this support. Sagicor has put in place a maintenance schedule to ensure that the machines donated today will function well in the years to come."

Dr Jennifer Knight-Madden, director, the Sickle Cell Unit, said, "The donation will help the Sickle Cell Unit in the east and the Sickle Cell Trust in the west to actually do island-wide screening for sickle cell disease, at last."

The Sickle Cell Unit has a history of successful fund raising for improving clinical services and now focuses on the development of services for sickle cell patients, promoting clinical research and developing educational tools on the disease. The Unit is one of the largest specialist centres for sickle cell disease in the world.


PAHO/WHO guidance on early diagnosis of childhood cancer


A new manual for health-care providers, Early Diagnosis of Childhood Cancer, has been published by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) to improve early detection of childhood cancer, and help reduce child mortality in the Americas.

"The purpose of this manual is to improve the knowledge of primary-health care teams about the signs and symptoms of paediatric cancer and about treatment referrals, to ensure that all children benefit from early diagnosis and timely treatment," said Dr Anselm Hennis, director of the Department of Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health at PAHO/WHO.

Cancer is among the leading causes of death in children over one year in many countries of the Americas. In 2012, some 29,000 children under 15 were diagnosed with cancer in the region. Leukaemia is the most common type of childhood cancer, followed by tumors of the central nervous system and Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin lymphomas.

Paediatric cancer is not considered preventable, but early detection increases the chances it can be cured. In recent years, advances in treatment and new clinical protocols and guidelines have contributed to improved survival rates.

The most common type of cancer in children is acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, once considered a fatal disease. Today, its five-year survival rate is more than 70 per cent.

The situation is different, however, for children in lower-income countries, where cancer-survival rates are 10-20 per cent lower than in higher-income countries. Reasons for these poorer outcomes include late diagnosis, limited access to treatment and disease recurrence.

The new PAHO/WHO manual tells health professionals how to identify suspicious signs and symptoms. It provides comprehensive information on the most common cancers in children and the main risk factors for cancer. It teaches how to assess the possibility of cancer and gives health providers information and tools to manage children with possible cancer, or with signs indicating they require immediate medical attention. It also provides information on follow-up and post-treatment care at the primary-care level for children diagnosed with cancer.