Minister of Health and Wellness, Christopher Tufton, says parents need to be extra vigilant in protecting their children from respiratory illnesses, as the infection rate is high. The Minister’s call came following a visit to the Spanish Town Hospital in St Catherine, on 2 November, where he saw, first-hand, a high number of children admitted to the healthcare facility. “There is significant overcrowding and patients waiting at the paediatric ward, it is full, and the neonatal intensive care unit is overcrowded, with low nurse to patient ratio,” he said, adding that where children exhibit illnesses, they must see a doctor, and “if they need hospital care, we have to find a way to make it happen”.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Chronic respiratory diseases (CRDs) affect the airways and other structures of the lungs. Some of the most common are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, occupational lung diseases and pulmonary hypertension.
Tobacco smoke, other risk factors include air pollution, occupational chemicals and dusts, and frequent lower respiratory infections during childhood.
Tufton explained that the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA) is moving to address a number of requests that will make the environment more comfortable, stressing that it is the time of the year for respiratory illnesses to spread, but this year is different. “This year it is particularly difficult, but we are trying as best as possible, adding areas for a more comfortable wait,” the minister said. He pointed out that the upcoming US$55-million investment in the institution will make things much better in terms of space and equipment.
The Minister commended the staff at the hospital, underscoring that persons have to do their job to understand the stress that they go through in times when they are stretched. “It is a stressful job on a daily basis, and they have remained committed, but the future will be better,” Tufton said.
Meanwhile, Senior Medical Officer (SMO) at the hospital, Dr. Jacqueline Wright-James, said that over the last two months they have seen a major increase in children seeking care for respiratory problems, adding that it had moved from 90 per month to more than 200 last month. “We have to be innovative to ensure that our patients get seen,” she said, advising that members of the public need to ensure that they sanitise their hands regularly, stay away from crowds, and vaccinate where possible.