BRIDGETOWN: Caribbean countries, limited in the care they offer for the specialized nature of childhood cancer, have welcomed an initiative involving the University of the West Indies (UWI), the Hospital for Sick Children in Canada, and the Centre for Global Child Health.
At the launch of the SickKids-Caribbean Initiative, Barbados Minister of Health, John Boyce, said Caribbean countries were limited in the care that they offered due to the specialized nature of childhood cancer.
“Our shortcomings include limited pediatric pathological expertise to assist in diagnosis, staging and treatment modules; availability of specific drugs which may be imported to treat particular cancers which require interventions; and the lack of a targeted linear accelerator which will reduce the side effects of radiation therapy,” he said. “The establishment of the Shaw Family Telemedicine Room, therefore, addresses some of our limitations.”
The Telemedicine Room at the UWI Clinical Skills Building, will house the SickKids-Caribbean Initiative and works with stakeholders across the English-speaking Caribbean to improve the outcomes and quality of life for children with cancer and blood disorders, as well as their families.
Boyce said the initiative provides the delivery of clinical care to persons who would otherwise require transfer overseas for consultation.
“The health profile of children in the English-speaking Caribbean reflects a picture of overall good health. This is supported by the child health programs which support the healthy growth and development of children under five years of age and aim to protect them from vaccine-preventable diseases through immunization.
“Unfortunately, there are some medical conditions to which children and adolescents may be susceptible which cannot be prevented, treated or cured by vaccines or other low cost interventions.
“These may result from genetic predisposition and autoimmune response, environmental factors and, in many cases, unknown causes. Amongst such diseases are diabetes, respiratory illnesses…mental and physical disabilities, lupus, sickle cell disease and cancer,” he said.
Boyce said that there was an average of eight to 10 childhood cancer cases annually in Barbados.
“The average survival rate is 75 per cent and this represents the cases that are cured,” said Boyce. “This facility offers connectivity with overseas medical specialists that will assist doctors here in Barbados with continuing education and offer support to parents and doctors managing sick children.”
Boyce said family and medical staff would have access to a team of medical experts in the diagnosis and treatment options that are available.