Wed | Feb 26, 2020

Spinal cord injury registry needed in Jamaica, says rehab centre CMO

Published:Wednesday | October 31, 2018 | 12:00 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Winston Foster (in wheelchair) shows his injury to Karen Nelson (right), deputy chief nursing officer, Ministry of Health; Andrea Christie (second right), director of nursing services, Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre; and Barrington Chisholm, chairman, Liguanea Region Management Committee. The occasion was the Outlook of Spinal Cord Injury in Jamaica Symposium at the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre in St Andrew yesterday.

Dr Rory Dixon, chief medical officer at the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre in St Andrew, is charging the Ministry of Health to ensure that citizens with spinal injuries receive the best care and attention possible by collecting accurate data on existing cases.

The rehabilitation facility, formerly known as the Mona Rehabilitation Centre, focuses on treating patients with poliomyelitis and injuries to the spinal cord.

Despite becoming a signatory to the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities from as far back as 2007, Jamaica is yet to stay true to the commitment of putting a system in place that would allow for proper collection and frequent update of spinal injury data locally.

"Jamaica loves to sign to everything. Jamaica is a signatory to the convention of persons with disabilities, and that convention was [drafted] in 2006. One of the requirements of the convention is that signatories should take effective measures to ensure personal mobility and rehabilitation.

"Part of the mandate is that there should be laws and practices with respect to disability, and there should be evidence that these things are being done," Dixon said yesterday at the Outlook of Spinal Cord Injury in Jamaica Symposium hosted inside the rehabilitation centre's large conference room.

According to Dixon, the Ministry of Health has been dragging its feet on the matter and encouraged it to spearhead a multi-agency mission to remedy the situation so that the data can be readily available.

"There was a 2013 workshop in Ecuador, and I represented Jamaica. What came out was that signatory countries should have data of persons with disabilities and that data should be updated every two years. If you ask the Ministry of Health how many spinal cord patients are in Jamaica, nobody knows," he said.

"Just like how we have a cancer registry, what is being done to put together a spinal cord registry, as well as an amputation registry?" he asked.

"With this, we can easily tap into data to find out what their needs are and also to provide for these groups. The data is out there, but nobody really has it. For efficiency, the ministry should be the entity spearheading communication between the Planning Institute of Jamaica, Statistical Institute of Jamaica, the Ministry of Labour and other groups, so we can have some sort of accurate data to know the number of persons that we need to be serving."

Based on information handed to the media by the rehab centre, global incidence of spinal cord injuries, traumatic and non-traumatic, is likely to be between 40 and 80 cases per million. Every year, between 250,000 and 500,000 people suffer a spinal cord injury.

Incidence of spinal cord injuries in Jamaica is not accurate, as only patients who present to the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre have been included in collected data. An average of 50 new cases, or 16 per million, present each year.