Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh says there has been a decrease in the number of patients seeking emergency treatment at hospitals for non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and strokes.
He cited a ministry public education programme for the success which urged people over the Christmas period to take their medication and to eat and drink in moderation.
“The solution to the problems in the health care system isn’t putting more resources or building more hospitals. It’s about prevention. This was the first year in over the past maybe five or ten years, where our A&Es were not overcrowded after Christmas and New Year.”
Deyalsingh made the statement while speaking to members of the media at the Central Regional Health Authority’s (NCRHA) fourth Pap smear initiative at the Mt Hope Women’s Hospital on Saturday.
By noon, over 500 women were screened for cervical cancer. NCRHA CEO Davlin Thomas said over 1,000 women were expected and the hospital was prepared for 1,500 patients.
In addition to Pap smear testing and breast cancer screenings, this year, there were also services such smoking cessation counselling, BMI, blood pressure testing, dietary consultations, dental screening, influenza vaccinations, HIV counselling, stress management support, and sexual behaviour consultations.
There were also mental health screenings, manicures and pedicures, massages, a make-up station, pharmaceutical and product samples, meals and live entertainment.
Hazel Hood, of Chaguanas, said she learned about the initiative on the news and decided to get screened because she had not had a Pap smear since she retired years ago.
Gabrielle Mollineau, of Tacarigua, said she saw a notice for the initiative on a friend’s WhatsApp status. She said since one of her New Year’s resolutions was to ‘take a more serious approach to her health,’ she and three of her friends decided to attend.
Thomas said this year’s turnout was comparable to the Men’s Wellness Clinic, which screened for prostate cancer on January 12 at the same location.
“We have never, in particular for men, seen those kinds of numbers of persons coming to do prostate exams and PSAs (prostate-specific antigen) and so on, so that was tremendous and now we’re seeing the same kind of response for women.”
He said at least 150 men were identified to have abnormalities and had to have further testing and treatment. He noted with preventative measures such as these; it is less traumatic to the patient and less expensive to the state.
Deyalsingh added, “If we did not do that those 150 would have presented to the health care system in two years, three years, for radiotherapy or chemotherapy.”
He said men did not have the avenue or space before where they felt comfortable to be screened. He said the Men’s Wellness Clinic used more blood tests and an MRI screening programme for prostate cancer instead of a digital rectal examination.
“That has worked wonders. So you get over that phobia for men and they are responding in droves. And we are so happy.”
Deyalsingh said the initiatives were part of his NCD prevention drive, which included cancer screening for men and women throughout all four regional health authorities and in Tobago. Mobile units were also sent to areas where hospitals were less accessible such as Rio Claro, Blanchisseuse, Toco, and Brasso Seco.