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The Treatment of Children and Adults with Physical Disability in Jamaica Programme has been giving many Jamaicans a new lease on life.
The 14-year-old Medical Mission caters to patients with spasticity, a condition in which muscles stiffen or tighten, thereby preventing normal fluid movement.
It means, therefore, that many Jamaicans who struggle with neurological diseases affecting the central nervous system, such as stroke, traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, and cerebral palsy are benefiting annually.
The programme is spearheaded by Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Physician, Dr. Paula Dawson, who has been leading the charge since 2009.
She took over from Dr. Mark Gormley, who started the programme a year before through the Organisation for Strategic Development in Jamaica (OSDJ), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in the United States (US).
The medical expert relies on local and international partners to keep the programme going, one of which is the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund.
Dr. Dawson says more than 250 procedures have been performed to date, to include over 200 neurolytic injections and several orthopaedic surgeries.
Additionally, more than 200 leg braces and other pieces of medical equipment have been distributed to those most in need.
She explains that annually, a team of rehabilitation specialists from Gillette Children’s, a non-profit hospital in Minneapolis, US, travel to Jamaica to help her with the public clinic.
“In the earlier years, we had a larger team visiting each time, which would be three times per year. Back then, the visiting team would pay their own airfare [and other accommodation]. So, the programme started to get smaller, and we were getting less volunteers, then the CHASE Fund came on board and injected funding that covered airfare and accommodations,” Dr. Dawson tells JIS News.
Since 2015, CHASE has approved funding of more than US$120,000.00, while the team members cover their meals and other incidentals.
During the period funded by CHASE, the team has visited the island two to three times annually and treats approximately 80 children and adults on each visit.
This has led to many children receiving surgeries that were never performed before in Jamaica, such as neurosurgical rhizotomy, which treats overactive muscles in children with cerebral palsy.
Other treatments include phenol injections and intramuscular injections.
Wheelchairs and braces have also been provided at no cost to the patients.
Speaking with JIS News, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the CHASE Fund, W. Billy Heaven, notes that the programme falls within its remit.
The health sector benefits from 20 per cent of the CHASE Fund’s resources and one of its key objectives is to partner with the private sector in the delivery of healthcare.
“Quality healthcare is one of the pillars of any country, so we must, at all times be building capacity if we want to have a healthy nation and economy,” the CEO points out.
The next medical mission is scheduled for November. Dr. Dawson is encouraging persons in need to make use of the services the clinic provides, especially since it comes at no cost to patients or their families.
“To access the programme [you] will need to be referred to the University Hospital of the West Indies. Even the patients I see privately, I refer them back to my public clinic, where the cost is only the registration fee for the hospital,” she says.
She is also hoping to expand the programme to reach more individuals through a mobile rehabilitative clinic.
“This, as you know, is not just getting a very expensive specialised bus, but also planning, staffing, stocking, maintaining and managing. But that would be great, until we expand the training at UWI to have more physiatrists here in Jamaica and import an orthotist and other rehabilitation specialists,” she added.