Tue | Jan 31, 2023

Democratising health care

Medical mission offering free services to hundreds over five days

Published:Wednesday | October 26, 2022 | 12:06 AMKeisha Hill/Senior Gleaner Writer
Dr Ernest Madu, founder and chief cardiologist, HIC.
Dr Ernest Madu, founder and chief cardiologist, HIC.
The Heart Institute of the Caribbean’s Balmoral Avenue site.
The Heart Institute of the Caribbean’s Balmoral Avenue site.
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The Heart Institute of the Caribbean (HIC), along with the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas (ANPA), is preparing and planning to treat hundreds of Jamaican citizens by offering free comprehensive medical care that includes surgeries, routine healthcare, vision and others services to the local population.

According to Dr Ernest Madu, founder and consultant cardiologist at HIC, they were inspired to organise this mission after reading several press reports of significant backlog of cases in the public sector resulting from disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We understand that there may be a backlog of as many as 7,000 surgeries in the public system. We also know that many public hospitals are already being overwhelmed by demand and limited resources. We know, for example, that an estimated 7,500 Jamaicans suffer from heart attack each year but more than 90 per cent of these individuals do not benefit from timely intervention which is known to not only save lives, but reduce the risk of complications or long-term disability,” Dr Madu said.

“We are mindful of the efforts being made by the Government to ensure that all citizens get appropriate care, but we know that the demands can sometimes outstrip the available resources. We believe that it is in the national interest for the private sector to step up and support the efforts of the Government. That is why we are doing this, and we hope that all those individuals on the waiting list for various services, including angiograms, angioplasty, pacemakers and open-heart surgeries, can take advantage of this unique opportunity,” Dr Madu said.

According to him, their objective has always been to democratise access to good-quality healthcare for all Jamaicans, irrespective of their socio-economic background.

“We believe that good-quality healthcare anchored on a sound scientific basis and international best practices should be routinely accessible to all. The medical mission fits into our core principle to make healthcare accessible to all,” Dr Madu said.

HIC was established in 2005 to address a major problem of access to cardiovascular care in Jamaica. Prior to the establishment of HIC, Dr Madu said many cardiovascular services and procedures were not readily available in Jamaica.

“More affluent individuals depended on facilities in Florida for routine and lifesaving cardiovascular care at extraordinary cost. Unfortunately, this was not an option for the majority as this was logistically impossible and the costs were prohibitive. HIC has resolved that problem to a large extent by democratising access to high-quality cardiovascular care right here at home in Jamaica,” Dr Madu said.

OVER THE YEARS

Over the years, HIC has continued to add new services and expand operational sites to make its services more readily accessible to the average Jamaican. “We have established facilities across the island in areas where high-quality cardiac care was not previously available, including Mandeville and Ocho Rios. We have also evolved into a heart hospital with 24 beds, including 11-bed ICU capacity,” Dr Madu said.

“Our Heart Hospital is registered by the Ministry of Health and Wellness and is the only Heart Hospital in the English-speaking Caribbean. We have also built a state-of-the-art cardiac operating theatre and offer the only open-heart surgery programme in Jamaica where we have recorded excellent outcomes,” he added.

Dr Madu said they have continued to raise the bar for cardiovascular care in Jamaica, resulting in HIC being recognised as a centre of excellence in cardiovascular care by many international organisations.

“Our yearly HIC International Masters of Medicine conference continues to attract the leading authorities in cardiovascular care to Jamaica and has been a major source of continuous learning and improvement for the standard of healthcare locally. Because of our belief that good-quality healthcare should be accessible to all, we have partnered with ANPA to host a medical mission that grants the most vulnerable access to our facilities and best-in-class physicians and surgeons at no cost. This is critical at this time following the global pandemic,” Dr Madu said.

The goal of the HIC Medical Mission is to serve as many indigent patients as possible. “We are delighted with the overwhelming response but also saddened that so many people are socio-economically disadvantaged that humanitarian medical missions like these are their only access to adequate healthcare. It reminds us that as a community, we must find ways to mitigate suffering among the poor. HIC is pleased to be part of the solution,” Dr Madu said.

The HIC is working closely with ANPA and the Nigerian High Commission in Jamaica. “We have many doctors and healthcare professionals from ANPA in the USA who are joining us at HIC and donating their time and expertise to ensure that poor and vulnerable Jamaican patients get the care they so much need and deserve. We are grateful for the material support from a few of our US partners like IHS Group and Merit,” Dr Madu said.

Volunteer medics are welcome to participate in the HIC/ANPA certified mission from October 26-30.

“We expect that our modest efforts would help in reducing the burden on the public sector and free up resources to enhance access and quality of care for thousands. We expect that corporate Jamaica will see the need to support initiatives such as this to ensure that our fellow citizens live a healthier and happier lives,” Dr Madu said.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com