Jamaica Gleaner Online

Students from Vauxhall High School performing a musical item at the groundbreaking ceremony for the cardiac wing of the Bustamante Hospital for Children yesterday.

Alessandro Boyd • Gleaner Writer

Dr Michelle-Anne Richards-Dawson, senior medical officer at the Bustamante Hospital for Children (BHC), could not contain her joy yesterday at the groundbreaking ceremony for the well-needed cardiac unit on the grounds of the hospital.

There are several challenges facing children with cardiac diseases in Jamaica, such as getting surgeries, the limitation of service when it comes to space, capacity and the limited Intensive Care Unit (ICU) space, Richards-Dawson told The Gleaner.

The construction of this unit will improve the space, time and human resources, which will go a long way towards the care of the children, both preoperatively by the cardiologists and post-operatively by the surgeons and the intensivists (the doctor attending to the intensive care patients), she added. Richards-Dawson also noted that there are currently five ICU beds at the BHC which serve the entire paediatric population of the island.

Therefore, it's quite a competition to get the children in it. With this, we will have 10 additional paediatric ICU units, which will go towards these children who require surgery as well as those who may require intervention and assistance after.


Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson also highlighted the severity of the problem faced by children with cardiac diseases.

Every year, between 400 and 500 children are born with the congenital heart disease, 50 per cent of whom will usually require surgery. At present, we have an extensive waiting list of at least 150 children at the Bustamante Hospital, for cardiac surgeries, with new patients added each year, Ferguson said.

Despite this, we are only able to perform an average of 40 cardiac surgeries at a value of over $540 million each year. This initiative will give the hospital the opportunity to perform more complicated cardiac surgeries and further develop its paediatric care programme so that we can address the long waiting list of patients needing surgeries, he added.

Several organisations contributed towards the initiative such as Digicel, Sagicor Jamaica and the Shaggy Make A Difference Foundation. Digicel Jamaica was the biggest contributor, donating US$1.1 million towards the initiative.

The fact is that giving back is a part of our DNA. That is why we actively reach out to over 100,000 children each year through various education, technology and special-needs development initiatives and projects, and that is why we are pleased to be contributing $100 million to the construction of a cardiac wing at Bustamante Hospital for Children, Andy Thorburn, CEO of Digicel Jamaica, told The Gleaner.

Full Caption: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (fourth left) and a crew at work breaking ground for the cardiac wing of the Bustamante Hospital for Children yesterday. Other members of the team are (from left) Emma Scanlan, executive director, Chain of Hope; Lyttleton Shirley, chairman, South East Regional Health Authority; Andy Thorburn, chief executive officer, Digicel; Lady Allen; Fenton Ferguson, minister of health; artiste and philanthropist Orville 'Shaggy' Burrell, and Tara Nunes, vice-president, Sagicor Investments.- Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

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