Sun | Jan 16, 2022


Published:Wednesday | July 2, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Nearly $600m spent to upgrade north east region secondary health-care infrastructure

Minister of Health, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, has indicated that nearly $600 million has been spent since the last financial year to upgrade secondary health-care infrastructure in the North East Regional Health Authority.

"Importantly, more than half of that allocation, or $325 million, was spent, or is in the process of being spent, at the St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital. This includes painting and refurbishing of buildings on the campus, improvements in storage, purchase of equipment, installation of central air conditioning for the Accident and Emergency Department and construction of a perimeter wall, which is now in the procurement stage," Ferguson said during the opening of the Female Medical Ward at the St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital on Friday.

The money also includes work on the Female Medical Ward for which the total project cost was $136,700,000.

He explained that while much focus has been placed on the primary-health care system, there is an important role that secondary-care facilities will play in transforming the health sector.

"What we seek to have is an integration of the network of facilities from primary to tertiary care. The ideal is for persons to start at the primary-care level, where prevention and health promotion would be our main focus. The secondary care level takes into consideration the need for services that may not be available at primary care, such as ambulatory, specialised medical services, therapeutic support and emergency services," the health minister said.

Scotiabank, Ministry of Health team up to offer free HIV testing

Last Friday and Saturday, Scotiabank and the Ministry of Health teamed up to promote awareness of HIV/AIDS and provide free testing at Scotiabank branches, on King Street, Kingston, Spanish Town and Portmore Mall, St Catherine. The initiative aimed to test 1,500 persons in the two days.

According to Scotiabank's director of corporate social responsibility, Joylene Griffiths-Irving, the Regional HIV Testing Days, which began in 2007, is part of an initiative which fits into the health focus of the organisation. Approximately 190 testing sites across the Caribbean were involved in the initiative this year.

Targeted community intervention officer, Ministry of Health, Rohan McFarquhar, said: "We try to get persons to see other ways and means of staying negative. We assess the risk factors, and show what can happen if persons keep doing what they are doing. We encourage persons to come in with their partners to get tested."

He took the opportunity to inform about community-intervention programmes that the Ministry of Health has embarked on. "We spend about one year in select communities and we conduct parenting workshops, assist young persons in getting HEART certification or resitting subjects."

Maple, a resident of Portmore, who came for testing at the Portmore location said: "It's a fantastic way to get information out to persons. People will want to come."

She shared her story of her recent diabetes diagnosis: "I wouldn't have known if I hadn't gotten tested, so it's important to know, either way."

Breast cancer-drug hope from leukaemia research

A team at the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom investigated the role of the RUNX1 gene, which is one of the most commonly altered genes in leukaemia. However, they have now shown it is also active in the most deadly of triple-negative breast cancers.

Tests on 483 triple-negative breast cancers showed patients testing positive for RUNX1 were four times more likely to die as a result of the cancer than those without it.

One of the researchers, Dr Karen Blyth, noted: "This opens up the exciting possibility of using it [RUNX1] as a new target for treatments. First, we need to prove this gene is causative to the cancer, if it is then what would happen if we did inhibit it?"

She added, "There's a couple of drugs in development in the US to target this gene, from a leukaemia point of view. If they work, we can test it in breastcancer cells."

However, the gene has a complex role. Normally, it is vital for cell survival and plays a critical role in producing blood. However, depending on circumstances, it can either encourage or suppress tumours. It means any use of a drug to target the gene might cause side-effects.

Dr Kat Arney, science communications manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "There's still so much we need to understand about triple-negative breast cancers, as they can be harder to treat in some people. Almost two out of three women with breast cancer now survive their disease beyond 20 years."

She continued, "But more must be done, and we urgently need more studies like these, particularly in lesser-understood forms of the disease, to build on the progress we've already made and save more lives."