Thu | Feb 27, 2020

Newborns breathe sigh of relief for ventilators

Published:Tuesday | January 21, 2020 | 7:36 AM
Dr Garth McDonald (centre), senior medical officer at the Kingston Public Hospital and Victoria Jubilee Hospital (VJH), discusses the value of various instruments and supplies with (from left) Bruce Palmer, president of the Jamaica United Relief Association; Matron Valrie Taylor-Smalling, director of nursing services at VJH; Kathleen Cooper-Brown, CEO of KPH and VJH; and Dr Yanique Brown, consultant in the Neonatal Care Unit at VJH, on Monday.
Dr Garth McDonald (centre), senior medical officer at the Kingston Public Hospital and Victoria Jubilee Hospital (VJH), discusses the value of various instruments and supplies with (from left) Bruce Palmer, president of the Jamaica United Relief Association; Matron Valrie Taylor-Smalling, director of nursing services at VJH; Kathleen Cooper-Brown, CEO of KPH and VJH; and Dr Yanique Brown, consultant in the Neonatal Care Unit at VJH, on Monday.

At least 20 per cent of the estimated 700 babies born each month at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital (VJH) are generally in need of a ventilator, but with just two devices currently at the maternity facility, Jamaica has been facing serious challenges in reducing neonatal mortality.

One of the two ventilators currently in use at the hospital was donated in December by the Jamaica United Relief Association (JURA) in South Florida. The ventilator and other medical supplies were supposed to have been officially handed over at a ceremony at the hospital yesterday, but the need for the equipment was so dire that it was already commissioned into use and was, therefore, not on display.

“Our one ventilator which we had before your donation was just insufficient to provide respiratory support for all the critical newborns we see each month,” consultant at the hospital’s Neonatal Care Unit, Dr Yanique Brown, told representatives from JURA yesterday.

Chairman of the Kingston Public and Victoria Jubilee hospitals, Dr Stephanie Reid, said that the ventilator has been a life-saver.

“A major challenge for the hospital has to do with how it takes care of its neonates, little babies. So many babies that they have to take care of, they are born either premature, underweight, and need the additional oxygen and support it gets from a ventilator,” she said.

The ventilator, along with other equipment, cost an estimated US$20,000 (J$2.8 million). Reid said that there was need for at least 12 more such machines if they are supposed to meet the demand being placed on the hospital for its usage.

“Many times mothers are at the last end of their hope, because of the condition of their babies and the ventilator save the baby’s life,” she said.

JURA had also donated four incubators to the hospital last year May. President for the organisation, Bruce Palmer, said that he and his team sought donations to purchase the ventilator and other instruments after reading about cases of babies dying because there was insufficient neonatal equipment at hospitals in Jamaica.

“When we were told what was taking place here and the things that were needed, we decided we would go back and we were going to fundraise as hard as we could to provide assistance to the hospitals,” he said.

“If I was in a position to write a cheque and buy you 10 ventilators right now, I would do it, because I know the need is great,” Palmer told health practitioners yesterday.

Senior medical officer at the hospital, Dr Garth McDonald, said that more than 65 per cent of those placed on a ventilator generally survive. He said that KPH was the chief and final referral hospital for the island.

nadine.wilson@gleanerjm.com