I first met Derek Walcott, who died on March 20, in the late 1960s when we both worked as reporters at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Evening News in my native Trinidad.
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Heart disease #1 killer in T&T
Out of every 100 people who die each year in T&T, 37 die from heart disease.
The figures are alarming. However, interventional cardiologist and consultant with the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) Dr Colin Nath said the NCRHA and the Ministry of Health have been trying to get patients who suffer with non-communicable diseases to change their unhealthy diet and exercise on a regular basis in order to live longer, happier and healthier lives.
Though the task has been daunting, Nath feels if patients heed the advice, the country’s heart disease rate could be significantly reduced. “We have to put measures in place to deal with the country’s number one killer disease. We can’t continue with this growing trend,” he said.
Nath was at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) where he spoke about the work of the team of Sathya Sai Baba surgeons who had partnered with local interventional cardiologists to perform 100 charitable heart procedures at the hospital in the last few months. Director of Health at the NCRHA Dr Rodney Ramroop paid tribute to both local and foreign doctors who performed the procedures.
Last year, Ramroop said 68 adult patients were recipients of coronary angioplasty performed by doctors, nurses and vascular technicians from the Sathya Sai International Medical Committee. Nath, a consultant cardiologist, along with doctors Tricia Cummings, Camille Greene, Sheldon Olton and Ronan Ali were part of the local team. Patients from EWMSC, San Fernando General Hospital and Port-of-Spain General Hospital were selected for the procedure. Each angioplasty procedure cost taxpayers $120,000.
In April, seven US-based Sai Baba doctors, inclusive of doctors Sanjay Shah, Vijay Krishnamoorthy and John Donnelly joined forces with the local team to perform 42 surgeries on children suffering with heart ailments. The surgeries were done between April 2 to 9 at EWMSC. Ramroop said of the 42 children, 24 with congenital heart disorders received life saving procedures.
“I can proudly say that all the procedures were a success and done free of charge. This has been one of the hospital’s crowning achievements,” Ramroop boasted. Ramroop said the procedures have given the patients a new lease on life. “I must tip my hat to both teams. You must give credit where credit is due,” Ramroop said. He also thanked Dalvie Paladee and Satnarine Paladee of the Sathya Sai International Medical Committee for helping to make the venture possible.
Ramroop said while some doctors in the NCRHA were not giving 100 per cent in service at the institution, others often went beyond the call of duty in an attempt to help patients improve their health and lives. Ramroop said the international Sai Baba committee absorbed the cost of transport, meals and accommodation for their doctors when they first visited T&T last year. “When they came in April, the NCRHA paid for the doctors’ expenses.”
Nath said the link between the NCRHA and the Sai Baba doctors was made through correspondence last year. “We notified the Sai Baba committee of the projects and they sourced the necessary doctors and nurses for the procedures.” Ramroop said while T&T has interventional cardiologists who can do these procedures “most of them work in the private hospitals” because of what they are paid.
“Doctors are not paid well enough,” Ramroop said, admitting that incentives offered to consultants at private hospitals were far more attractive.
Cath lab not fully functional
Ramroop said one of the biggest problems they faced was not having a fully functional cath lab to perform assessment of total heart function, including the evaluation of coronary artery disease. “The problem was that the local engineers were not trained to service this equipment even though they were paid to supply and service it. We got an engineer from North Carolina and within the week, he found the problem and fixed it.”
Ramroop said the NCRHA board recently approved a service contract for the cath lab, which has to be signed by the Ministry of Health. The contract would ensure that the diagnostic imaging equipment in the cath lab is serviced by a foreign technician when something goes wrong. “This would ensure that patients receive round-the-clock care and attention.”