PNP's Guy wants continued medical attention for people with NCDs

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PNP's Guy wants continued medical attention for people with NCDs

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Senior staff reporter
dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, August 06, 2020

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OPPOSITION spokesman on health Dr Morais Guy says the concerns raised by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) over data showing that a number of countries have pulled back essential health care services at the primary level as they struggle with rising cases of the novel coronavirus is “a genuine one”.

Speaking during the weekly, virtual press briefing on Tuesday, PAHO's Director Dr Carissa Etienne said already in 27 countries, half of the diabetes and hypertension programmes at the primary care level have been halted, with pregnancy-related visits dropping by 40 per cent.

Dr Guy, in a Jamaica Observer interview yesterday, said based on anecdotal evidence, Jamaicans suffering from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have not been faring well since COVID-19.

“With the closure of some of the clinics that deal with these chronic NCDs, particularly because of those persons, what they have been doing is to give at least three months supply of medication to patients instead of having them come to the clinics on a monthly or bi-monthly basis,” Dr Guy told the Observer yesterday.

“What we have found, and I speak also as a person who practises in the private sector, is that patients come in and their hypertension and diabetes are out of control. So you can see clear evidence that the effect of COVID in reducing the public health clinics has created some problems and will create [more] problems,” he noted further.

Dr Guy said while he was unable to furnish figures to support the claims, the effects were undeniable.

“I have had cases reported to me where medical colleagues have gone to clinics in rural St Andrew and they have told me that a number of patients who are hypertensive their blood pressure has skyrocketed because they have been out of medication or had been taking the medication incorrectly. They are one of the groups that would need constant monitoring. The concerns raised by PAHO is a real one. They have also raised concerns about people abandoning dengue and that it is very much here,” he stated.

In the meantime, he said PAHO's call for countries to dedicate at least six per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to health care was “desirable” but might not be “affordable” at this time.

“We are only at 3.9 per cent now. Six per cent of GDP would translate to about $2.2 trillion, so you would be looking about $130 billion for the health sector we are only at about $80 billion. It is a desirable goal. In my sectoral presentation I spoke to aspiring, as a good Government in waiting, to dedicating at least five per cent, which was the industry standard out of the 2003 World Health Organization study,” Dr Guy noted.

PAHO said Tuesday that 11 countries within the Americas have less than three months supply of antiretrovirals.

“If these are not replenished soon, people living with HIV may have to interrupt their treatment. Meanwhile, some countries will run out of tuberculosis medication within the next three months and the reagents that they need to diagnose TB in half of that time. Running out of these supplies is simply not an option. We cannot allow this to happen,” Dr Etienne declared then.

PAHO in responding yesterday to the Observer's queries as to whether Jamaica is among the 11 countries referenced said “unfortunately, this is new data and is not publicly available”.


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