The importance of accurate death certificate documentation to the overall process of collating mortality data was underscored yesterday to some members of the local medical fraternity.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy St. John, told some 100 Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) medical and records staff, University of the West Indies medical students and private physicians, gathered in the QEH Auditorium, that it had become clear that there were limitations with recorded patient diagnoses, the documentation of clinical care and death certification.

"All physicians should be aware of the importance of mortality data and the role it plays in the health care system. Data collected from death certificates is of great importance to the national health care system, with significant impact on the development of health policies. It can be used in various aspects of public health to assess the general well-being of a population, to determine the leading causes of death, identify problems prevalent in a particular sub-population, or to determine the potential years of life lost," she emphasised.

?????????????????? The Senior Health Official noted that mortality data was used to create comparative data locally, regionally and internationally, and could influence policies regarding health education programmes, primary preventions, training of medical staff, purchase of hospital equipment and pharmaceuticals, as well as medical research.???? She added: "…It is therefore vital that these death certificates are completed following internationally recognized guidelines, thus ensuring standardised data collection."

Participants gathered also heard presentations from Clinical Director of the BNR – Cancer, and Honorary Consultant Pathologist at the QEH, Professor Patsy Prussia, on the history and importance of death certification, while Assistant Registrar at the Registration Department of the Supreme Court, Sandra Walker, spoke about the value of death certificate data.??

Epidemiologist at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Natasha Sobers, was also on hand to explain how this data is utilised by the Ministry of Health, and Medical Records Officer at the Death Records Desk of the QEH, Noreen Walker, explained some common issues encountered in adequately completing a death certificate.

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