Fri | Sep 22, 2023

Start Right to boost healthcare delivery for moms, newborns

Published:Wednesday | January 18, 2023 | 1:03 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Dr Glen Malarett Hernandez (left), ultrasound fellow at Jacob Medical Centre, shows how the IQ hands-on ultrasound machine works by testing the heartbeat of Gavin Dias with Dr Judeen Frank (right), A&E medical officer at the Kingston Public Hospital, while
Dr Glen Malarett Hernandez (left), ultrasound fellow at Jacob Medical Centre, shows how the IQ hands-on ultrasound machine works by testing the heartbeat of Gavin Dias with Dr Judeen Frank (right), A&E medical officer at the Kingston Public Hospital, while the medical team looks on. The occasion was the launch of Start Right – A Maternal and Newborn Care Initiative at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Monday.

The Ministry of Health & Wellness has launched a maternity and newborn care initiative dubbed Start Right, which is aimed at providing care supplies and support to vulnerable mothers and babies.

The public-private partnership will also see the delivery of modern ultrasound technology for health facilities and training for healthcare providers.

Health and Wellness State Minister Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn said reducing maternal deaths is high on the global agenda.

She added that maternal health continues to be important in the promotion of good health and well-being.

The state minister said that Jamaica’s maternal health programme prioritises care from pre-pregnancy to through to the first five years of a child’s life.

Cuthbert-Flynn noted that dedicated efforts have been made by the ministry to enhance universal health coverage for comprehensive reproductive, maternal and newborn care in order to deliver better outcomes for every pregnant woman and her newborn.

She said that it is critical for women to access emergency obstetrics care, especially in high-risk pregnancies, and it is imperative that skilled health professionals attend to all births.

Cuthbert-Flynn said improved diagnostic services will be provided through state-of-the-art technology, as 24 handheld ultrasound monitors will be distributed in public hospitals. The portable devices, which are supported by iPad technology, will enable early and rapid diagnostic testing.

“Start Right will serve vulnerable mothers as they access care through the public health system. Overall, this initiative is focused on improving pregnancy outcomes for high-risk and low-income pregnant women. Start Right brings before us a tremendous opportunity to improve our maternal health offerings, but even in a broader sense, the family,” she added.

She noted that many pregnant teens and women with limited economic resources usually seek medical care late in their pregnancies, which can affect their health or that of their child.

“This is why we conceived of a community health perspective for this programme in order to receive vulnerable mothers into care with the help of our community health aides,” she reasoned.

“On rollout, 100 adolescent and other vulnerable mothers will receive snuggle nests – a portable infant bed – as well as essential items, including diapers, skin, oral care and hygiene products. The programme will later target some 2,000 mothers,” the state minister remarked.

Founder and CEO of JAHJAH Foundation, Dr Trevor Dixon, recalled that 15 years ago, he and Dr Hugh Wong began conducting ultrasound workshops with Jamaican doctors.

Over that period, some 400 physicians received training made possible by local and diaspora donors.

Dixon explained that many doctors returned to health facilities which had no ultrasound machines or had machines in disrepair.

Last year, he was introduced to American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ), who were exploring the new ultrasound technology and “brilliance struck”.

“AFJ has stepped up big time by funding devices for phase one of the Jamaica handheld ultrasound project. JAHJAH Foundation and the team at Jacobi Medical Center in Bronx, New York, have meshed their passion and dedication by committing to the ongoing education and training of doctors in ultrasound technology and the use of the Butterfly iQ Probes with our partners at The University Hospital of the West Indies and the Kingston Public Hospital,” he said, adding that all partners are committed to making the project sustainable.

Dixon reiterated that ultrasounds save lives and noted that the handheld devices that will be introduced in Jamaica’s public health system are a “game changer” as pregnant mothers will no longer need to be moved around to have an ultrasound conducted.

Meanwhile, AFJ President Wendy Hart said the launch of the initiative is a manifestation of joint partnership and commitment to improve the outcomes of Jamaicans.

“Our goal is to have these handheld devices in as many doctors’ pockets as possible,” she said, as she thanked donors who have contributed to the foundation over the years.

In his remarks, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton commended the partners for their support to the sector.

He said that the hospitals that will benefit from the devices are Victoria Jubilee, Black River, Cornwall Regional, Savanna-la-Mar, St Ann’s Bay, May Pen, Princess Margaret, Mandeville Regional, and the Spanish Town hospitals as well as the University Hospital of the West Indies.