Government is in the process of recruiting and training 40 community outreach nurses, who will engage with people suffering from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in their home setting to help them properly manage their health challenges.
The initiative, officially launched this morning at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, aims to confront “a battle of epic proportions against NCDS”, which Minister of Health and Wellness, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bostic, says the healthcare system has been in the grips of, for over two decades.
Speaking at the ceremony to outline the new programme, the Health and Wellness Minister shared research statistics which showed that eight out of the 10 leading causes of death in Barbados resulted from NCDs, in particular heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and cancer.
He revealed that as of June this year, the cardiology and diabetes outpatient clinics at the QEH had over 2,250 active patients, with about 260 new referrals being made each month by polyclinics and private physicians.
Eighty to 90 per cent of these patients, he said, were presenting with either deteriorating kidney function, diabetes, hypertension, or all three.
Minister Bostic told his audience that it was estimated that about 25 percent of the population was either diabetic or hypertensive, and in some cases, both. He added that projections indicated that by 2025, at least one-third of the population will have an NCD.
“According to the Barbados National Registry, in 2013, there were 14 heart attacks and 53 NCD-related strokes per month. If we extrapolate that data, based on the projected eight per cent increase in Barbadians with NCDs, we will be looking at record numbers of heart attack and stroke victims presenting to our Accident and Emergency Department.”
Government’s response to this challenge, the Minister disclosed, was to establish a comprehensive management plan for dealing with NCDs.
“This means that in addition to a robust primary care system for early detection and our national health promotion programme, we must meet these patients where they are and provide them with the necessary support at the community level. This is the pillar on which the QEH’s community outreach programme rests.”
In the first year, the outreach programme will target 500 patients from the hospital’s cardiology and diabetes outpatients’ clinics.
The patients selected were identified as having poor compliance and social challenges which negatively impacted their care, resulting in repeat hospital admissions.
Minister Bostic explained that the community outreach nurses will visit these patients in their homes to learn more about the barriers which they face in dealing with their health challenges.
This, he said, will allow for the creation of individualised care plans suited to each patient’s social and healthcare needs, and aims to result in an improved quality of life and better health outcomes.
He outlined the benefits of the programme as facilitating better care transitions for vulnerable patients from the hospital to the home environment; strengthening communication between the QEH and vulnerable communities; improving adherence to health recommendations; and reducing the need for emergency and specialist services.