Incubators for Annotto Bay

Medical staff no longer forced to improvise babies’ critical care

BY INGRID BROWN Senior staff reporter

Sunday, May 15, 2011    

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INCUBATORS are usually a standard feature on a paediatric hospital ward.

But, at the Annotto Bay Hospital in St Mary, the staff were forced to improvise almost every day as they struggled to save the lives of newborns without the aid of an incubator or a ventilator.

No longer.

Their days of wrapping babies who are on the brink of death in pieces of cotton in an effort to keep them warm are over — thanks to the ISSA Trust Foundation which has donated some US$100,000 worth of medical equipment to the hospital.

In fact, not only will these babies benefit from an incubator, but the paediatric ward has received a combination incubator and ventilator, said to be the only one on the island.

This incubator, according to hospital officials, will allow for the easy transportation of babies to the Bustamante Hospital for Children in Kingston for treatment which cannot be had at that facility.

"With these equipment we will be able to better care for the kids," Dr Iyer Ramos, head of the paediatric unit told the Sunday Observer immediately following a handing-over ceremony on the grounds of the hospital on Thursday.

He explained further that the incubators for the paediatric ward were not replaced when they broke down several years ago, leaving the staff to become masters of improvisation in their desperate bid to keep sick or premature babies warm until their temperatures stabilise.

In addition to the three incubators, the ISSA Trust also donated infusion pumps which are used to deliver medication to infants.

Dr Ramos said the hospital had, in the past, resorted to giving the babies their medication intravenously because they did not have any of these pumps.

"This meant that the doctors have to do it (inject the babies) slowly and have to stay by the bedside delivering it little by little," he explained.

Vital sign monitors which were also donated, were also gratefully received since the hospital only had two, Dr Ramos said.

"Now nurses don't have to be changing monitors from one patient to another," he said.

But, despite the limited resources the unit has been forced to work with, Dr Ramos said the staff has been very effective in saving lives.

This, he said, is evident in the Annotto Bay Hospital's paediatric department holding the record of having the second lowest neonatal mortality rate among Type B hospitals in Jamaica for the last five years.

This means there are only eight in 1,000 deaths of infants aged zero to four weeks old at the facility. The department also boasts having the lowest paediatric mortality rate in children aged zero to 12 years in the last five years.

None of this, Ramos said, would have been possible without the leadership of the hospital's senior medical officer Dr Ray Fraser, who has been at the facility for more than 17 years.

"He encourages us with exemplary work ethics and to be the best we can, even with the limited resources," said the Cuban national.

More than 1,000 babies are born at that facility each year.

Diane Pollard, president and chief executive officer at ISSA Trust Foundation said they were first made aware of the need at the paediatric ward through a programme which sees the Trust bringing doctors in from overseas to work in the North East Regional Health Authority (NERHA) division throughout the year.

It was during one such visit, Pollard said, that it was observed that there were no functioning incubators and that premature babies were being wrapped in cotton and bags to keep warm.

But, the final straw was the death of one of a set of triplets born at the hospital under a year ago. The baby died because the hospital did not have the necessary equipment to save its life.

Pollard said the Foundation first purchased warmers for the hospital, but was intent on having the proper equipment eventually.

She said there is so much more the Foundation wants to do for the hospitals in the region namely Annotto Bay, Port Antonio and Port Maria, but this is dependent on what funding can be raised.

In the interim, the Foundation signed a Memorandum of Understanding with NERHA and the Ministry of Health last July which sees the organisation bringing paediatricians from overseas on a rotating basis every 30 days.

The doctors stay free at Couples Resort and see 25 to 30 children per day.

The Issa Trust Foundation was established in 2005 to provide a system of health promotion and education and disease prevention, among other community health services, in the parishes of St. Mary and Westmoreland where the resorts are located.

Paul Issa, vice-president at Couples and board member of the Foundation, said the organisation also provides opportunities for US-based medical professionals to experience a clinical-care setting overseas while giving freely of their time and expertise to Jamaica.

"I am very proud to be involved in the presentation today to the Annotto Bay Hospital of three incubators and other medical equipment including fusion pumps and an EKG machine at a total value of over US$100,000," he said.

Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, the first of that high office to visit the hospital in the last 25 years, urged the staff to use the equipment effectively and carefully so they can last.

He noted that notwithstanding the successes Jamaica has had in the delivery of health care, diagnostic equipment, especially in rural area hospitals are inadequate.

He commended the staff for the good work that they have been able to do despite the limited resources.

"This shows that you don't always have to have everything to do an effective job," said Sir Patrick.





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