The maternal and neonatal High-Dependency Unit (HDU) building that was officially opened at the St. Ann’s Bay Regional Hospital in St. Ann on June 5 is expected to significantly improve maternal outcomes across the northern belt of the island.
The facility, which was opened by Health and Wellness Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, was built under the European Union (EU)-funded Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality (PROMAC).
It houses maternal and neonatal HDUs, which will provide support to high-risk pregnant women and critically ill neonates.
In an interview with JIS News, consultant anaesthesiologist at the hospital, Dr. Peter Scarlett, explained that the institution, which is the only Type B facility in the North East Regional Health Authority (NERHA), serves a wide cross section of the island and is a referral hospital for numerous health facilities.
“This hospital serves a very large population, not just in St. Ann but also St. Mary, Portland, parts of Clarendon and parts of Trelawny, so the high-risk maternal cases are going to be referred here,” he noted.
Dr. Scarlett added that the hospital has, on occasion, accepted referrals from as far away as Savanna-la-Mar Hospital in Westmoreland.
“We do quite a number of deliveries and among those are persons who have medical issues, such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiac problems and also problems associated with pregnancy, like pre-eclampsia, which is a pregnancy-related hypertensive disease,” he added.
According to Dr. Scarlett, those patients can go on to have complications, such as seizures, stroke or liver haemorrhage.
He pointed out that the hospital’s maternity unit is staffed by highly experienced obstetricians, midwives and other support staff, and that the new infrastructure will improve the level of care that can be provided.
Dr. Scarlett indicated that the limitations that existed prior to the establishment of the HDUs meant that in the past, the health facility would have had to manage patients to a certain point, then refer them to another institution with an intensive care unit or critical care unit.
“With this facility here, we will be more than able to manage some of these complicated cases, and we expect better outcomes and fewer cases of morbidity (illness) and mortality (death),” he said.
According to the Consultant Anaesthesiologist, an HDU provides a higher level of care than that which can be provided on a normal ward and is equipped to provide a measure of critical care.
“With the equipment we have, we will be operating pretty close to a critical care unit, except that we would need some more support services. We’d be able, for example, to provide ventilatory or breathing support. We have all the monitoring equipment to monitor both mother and baby, so our maternal patients will benefit significantly,” he said.
PROMAC was spearheaded by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, under a GOJ-European Union (EU) bilateral agreement.
In 2013, Jamaica was allocated €22 million by the European Union to support the achievement of Millennium Development Goals Four and Five, which relate to reductions in maternal and child mortality ratios.