President of the Hope Foundation, Shelly Weir pinning a ribbon on Health Minister, John Boyce at this morning’s breakfast meeting. The event??was hosted by the Foundation to mark World Sickle Cell Day. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

Barbadians diagnosed with Sickle Cell Anaemia could soon have a Medical Day Unit dedicated to those suffering from acute pain.

Minister of Health, John Boyce, said that the Hope Foundation had been instrumental in pushing for such a unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital which, when fully operational, would provide pain management, chemotherapy facilities and "other clinical sub-acute interventions that would otherwise be provided by the Accident & Emergency (A&E) Department and the medical wards".

Mr. Boyce was speaking at a breakfast meeting at the Amaryllis Beach Resort today which was hosted by the Foundation to mark World Sickle Cell Day. He acknowledged that the A&E department had over the years developed a more compassionate and empathetic approach to patients with crises, offering urgent pain management and appropriate referrals in more complicated cases. However, he pointed out that there was room for improvement.

"I strongly urge that persons presenting to Accident & Emergency Department in sickle cell crisis be given priority treatment such as [is] afforded to patients with asthma. The Ministry of Health will, for its part, ensure that a wide range of oral and parenteril narcotic analgesics are available to all patients. The Ministry will continue to create a supportive and enabling environment by providing critical and home-based solutions for persons with sickle cell disease. Your life does not have to be from home to the emergency room with one painful crisis after the next. The Accident & Emergency Department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital [has become a familiar place for] many patients," he told those in attendance who included doctors, nurses and sickle cell sufferers.

Sickle Cell Anaemia is a chronic disorder where individuals inherit the defective gene from both parents, resulting in years of ill health and suffering, painful crises, retarded growth and the inability to achieve physical and mental milestones.

However, Mr. Boyce said the psychosocial consequences of the disease could be devastating and included absenteeism and poor performance at school and at work.

The Health Minister promised that his Ministry would work with the Pain Management Committee – a multi-disciplinary clinical committee which is mandated to develop policies, provide education and guide good clinical practice as it relates to pain management – to render solutions for those suffering with acute and chronic pain, including persons with Sickle Cell Anaemia.

He added that these interventions would be extended to persons with terminal cancer, chronic non-communicable diseases and other chronic degenerative disorders.

??"To date, there has been much interest generated throughout the Barbadian diaspora with respect to providing hospice care for persons with chronic pain and degenerative and terminal disorders. I am happy to report that several thousands of dollars have been raised in support of this cause," Mr. Boyce disclosed.

He also encouraged support for a proposal led by haemotologist, Dr. Cheryl Alexis, to introduce targeted screening of newborns for sickle cell disease.?? Neonatal screening may significantly decrease morbidity and mortality and improve the life expectancy of persons with the disease, he pointed out.

Mr. Boyce said this could be achieved through early preventive and aggressive treatment.

"Infants with sickle cell disease will be offered the appropriate intensive follow-up and treatment including vaccinations and pneumoccocus and haemophilus influenza. I am pleased to announce that these vaccinations are fully integrated into the immunisation protocols of the Ministry of Health and are available to all children between the ages of two to six months.

"Let me take this opportunity to applaud parents and family members of persons living with sickle cell disease for their tireless effort and commitment to the care and support of these persons and for championing the cause of Sickle Cell Anaemia in Barbados…I [also] wish to commend the [Hope Foundation] for the work it has done over the years in highlighting and educating the public about sickle cell disease," the Health Minister added.


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