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Women with high-risk and complicated pregnancies, now have greater access to high quality treatment and care, at the High Dependency Unit at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI).
Located in the hospital’s Labour and Delivery Ward, the unit, which has been in operation for almost four months, was set up by the Friends of Labor and Delivery Limited (FOLD), a charitable organisation, which operates out of the UHWI, through a $10 million grant from the National Health Fund (NHF).
The grant provided for the purchase and installation of 33 pieces of well-needed equipment – a digital paediatric scale; six patient monitors; six medical infusion pumps; four foetal detectors; three standby mobile sphygmomanometers; four suction machines; one portable ultrasound system; and eight cardiotocography machines/foetal monitors.
Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the UHWI, Professor Horace Fletcher, who was part of a team that led NHF representatives on a tour of the Labour Ward and High Dependency Unit on Thursday (July 29), said that the receipt of the new medical equipment moves the hospital one step closer to providing first-class care to pregnant women in Jamaica and the Caribbean, who have life threatening conditions.
Chairman of FOLD and consultant at the UHWI’s Labour and Delivery Ward, Dr. Leslie Samuels, said that with the new equipment, the UHWI is now able to offer additonal services such as bedside sonographies, real time monitoring of the vital signs of mothers in labour, precise administration of intravenous fluids and medication, accurate assessment of foetal heart rate, and multi-system readings of the status of a patient’s pulse, blood pressure, pulse oxymetry, respiration and temperature.
Dr. Samuels informed that before, the UHWI had a limited amount of equipment to serve a large number of patients and up to last year, the labour ward, which has the capacity to serve 12 women at a time, had only four foetal monitors.
He noted further that the antenatal ward, which can house a maximum of 25 women, had one foetal monitor and there was none in the antenatal clinic.
“We are now at a stage where we have bought eight and the clinic has one, the antenatal ward has one and the other six are on the labour ward. What this means is that the ability to provide the service is maintained at each level and therefore, the machines are not moved up and down and the propensity for damage is vastly reduced,” he pointed out.
Citing the portable ultrasound machine, which was acquired at a cost of $2.2 million, Dr. Samuels said it will alleviate the woes of many patients, who had to endure the stress of being moved to other locations to do ultrasounds. “We often have patients, who are either unable to move or it is unsafe to transport them back and forth, and so the ability to do bedside sonography is very important,” he explained.
Chairman of the NHF, Dr. Lester Woolery, praised the work of FOLD, noting that the establishment of the High Dependency Unit will not only offer quality antenatal and postnatal care to more Jamaican women, but also positively impact Jamaica’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for maternal and infant mortality.
He said that maternal death decreased to 110 per 100,000 in 2000 and dropped further to 78 per 100,000 last year, while infant mortality has improved from 26 per 100,000, to 21 per 100,000.
“This centre is catering to women with severe conditions that are potentially life threatening and therefore, is expected to save more lives and further improve figures in these areas,” he said.

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