WHILE agreeing with Health Minister Terrance Deyalsingh that the Couva Children’s Hospital did not have a neonatal intensive unit like those at the San Fernando and Port of Spain General hospitals, Fyzabad MP Dr Lackram Bodoe noted that the hospital did possess similar facilities to the Wendy Fitzwilliam Paediatric Hospital at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex.
In a media release, Bodoe cited Deyalsingh’s Senate contribution last Wednesday, when he said infant mortality rates had declined from 24.2 per 1,000 live births in 2002 to 12.7 in 2012, and this was welcome news for the country. Bodoe noted that Deyalsingh had also shown a UNICEF report saying the 2018 figures were 12.6 per 1,000 live births.
“This would suggest a worrisome plateauing in the intervening six years, an observation which needs deeper analysis and deeper action across the health sector,” Bodoe said.
On live births, Bodoe said the majority of births in TT take place at the three major hospitals, as neonatal intensive care units are housed in the PoSGH, SFGH and the Mt Hope Maternity Hospital.
“It should be noted that infants can only be cared for in neonatal intensive care units up to one month of life, and therefore this is the reason that these units are situated in dedicated maternity departments,” he said. He said the user brief for the Couva Hospital, did not identify this facility as a dedicated delivery centre, although there are a few obstetric beds for emergency and low-risk births.
“As such, there was no need to incorporate a resource-intensive neonatal intensive care unit in this facility.
What the Couva Hospital does have, however, and which the minister omitted to state is a four-bed state-of-the-art paediatric intensive care unit to care for infants one month and older, and children up to 16 years,” Bodoe said.
“The infant mortality rates speak to the death of children up to one year of age and it is, therefore, critical to provide support for these children. There are paediatric intensive care units at the Port of Spain General Hospital and the Wendy Fitzwilliam wing of the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex but none at the San Fernando General Hospital. It was envisaged that the paediatric intensive care unit at the Couva Hospital would serve patients from San Fernando General Hospital as well.”
He said several other secondary and tertiary services were also proposed for the Couva Hospital, including oncology and haematology, cardio and respiratory medicine, neurology and development disorders and autism. “There is also provision for child psychiatry services in a modern environment. Paediatric surgical services were to include treatment of developmental and foetal abnormalities and spinal surgery.
In addition, rehabilitation services were to be part of the plan.
“In short, when opened, this facility would have provided state-of-the-art care for our nation’s children, as well as save valuable foreign exchange by decreasing the need for children to travel abroad for these services,” Bodoe said.