Guyana Help The Kids Board (GHTK) has had another successful year in meeting our primary goal of reducing infant mortality through the provision of education and technology to build capacity and ensure sustainability. To date, GHTK has partnered with the health sector to open a 24 bed level three NICU at Georgetown Hospital (GPHC) and other smaller level two NICUs at the Linden, New Amsterdam, West Demerara, Suddie and Bartica Hospitals.
We have developed a three-year pediatric post-graduate training program in partnership with the University of Guyana and a one-year neonatal nursing training program with Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH). From these programs, physician and nursing leaders have emerged to move our agenda forward at the grassroots level to conduct additional training. To date we have been successful in graduating 70 NICU nurses and 15 Pediatricians. The Pediatric Residency program is almost self sustaining with an increasing number of faculty from the graduating class. We are also now in discussions with the University of Guyana and the Institute of Health Science Centre (IHSC) to convert the one-year certificate program into a two-year degree program starting in May, 2019.
GHTK has provided all of the equipment and supplies to open the six mentioned hospitals. With your support we have donated an additional 10 new incubators and 9 cardio respiratory monitors this year to GPHC. In addition, we have had a Biomedical engineer from India visit Guyana to conduct training on the Incubators and other neonatal equipment. In partnership with the regional health sector, GKTK will make regular trips to the regional hospitals to ensure optimal functioning of the equipment and adequate training of the medical and nursing staff.
This year we are hoping to attract at least 5 new residents into the pediatric residency program to add to the current 15 that are at various stages of training. We intend to start the two-year NICU degree program in collaboration with the University of Guyana. This year we will also be donating an additional 7 incubators and a number of CPAP machines to GPHC and the regional hospitals. The long-term plan is to elevate the level of care at the regional hospitals to avoid overcrowding at GPHC. In June of 2019, GHTK will be partnering with IHSC and the Ministry of Health to organize a two-day annual Neonatal Conference for the entire country. Since its inception, our program has been responsible for saving hundreds of babies annually, however our work is not yet completed. We are encouraged by the ownership assumed by GPHC, Ministry of Health and most importantly the local doctors and nurses.
We have gained some invaluable lessons from the experience of working in Guyana. These lessons tell us that education of medical personnel and ownership by the Government are the two pillars of sustainability. Though our work in not yet done in Guyana, we feel confident in expanding our initiatives to the Caribbean Islands. With the assistance of the OECS we have identified similar challenges on the Islands.
(1) Very few NICU Nurses in the Caribbean with no local training program
(2) There is no Neonatologist but a number of pediatricians that were trained a number of years ago (3) There is inadequate functional neonatal equipment with limited biomedical support
(4) There are often shortages of essential drugs and consumable items
(5) Critically ill babies are often transferred out to Martinique at very significant costs to the government.
In partnership with the OESC and others we have embarked on the following plan:
1. NURSING: To develop a Local Neonatal Nursing Program for the Caribbean Islands. Our plan is to begin the program in August 2019.
2. PHYSICIANS: We will be starting monthly webinars with current practices in Neonatal Care. In addition, we have opened the pediatric residency program in Guyana to any physician from the Islands.
3. EQUIPMENT/DRUGS/CONSUMABLES: We will work with the OECS to begin to ensure that the Islands start to purchase these items from a few sources to ensure uniformity of the equipment and better pricing on drugs and consumables. Uniformity in equipment purchases will ensure better biomedical support and long-term functionality.
4. NEONATAL NETWORK: To combat the high cost of transferring babies out of the OECS, a neonatal network will be developed in which one or two islands will function as Tertiary Care Centres for high-risk babies. To facilitate this network, an inter-island Neonatal Transport system will be developed to ensure the safe and efficient transfer of critically ill babies.
I have already made visits to Dominica, St Lucia and St Vincent. I have met with the appropriate stakeholders, evaluated the level of Neonatal Care, and determined their willingness to partner with GHTK to improve the level of Neonatal Care. I can safely say that Guyana is far ahead of all the Islands in terms of level of neonatal care, and I am encouraged by their willingness to partner with GHTK.
We have a very busy year ahead of us with a lofty and ambitious agenda. I can however assure you that with your support and our very strong and engaged Board of Directors, we will continue to consolidate our position in Guyana and make inroads in improving neonatal care in the Caribbean.
I would like to thank all of our donors for their continued support and belief in our cause and I implore them to consider getting more actively involved since their skills are equally valuable. Thanks to the Board of Directors for their support and encouragement as we pursue our vision of expanding our reach beyond Guyana’s shores. I would also like to recognize our local chapter in Guyana for overseeing and implementing many of our initiatives and in particular the outstanding efforts of Aruna Faria. I would also like to thank and recognize the outstanding work done by our local coordinator, Shazeena Safi, as she has added professionalism, stability and efficiency to our Local GHTK Office.