Community nurses to tackle spiralling health challenges

In a bid to control the alarmingly high numbers of Barbadians grappling with non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) has launched a Community Health Worker Programme.

The programme is aimed at increasing treatment compliance and reducing the rate of re-admissions of outpatients with diabetes and cardiovascular disease and will see 40 Community Outreach nurses being recruited and trained.

Revealing some startling statistics, Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic said eight out of the ten leading causes of deaths in Barbados resulted from NCDs, particularly heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and cancer.

He said it was estimated that 25 per cent of the population had either hypertension or diabetes or both.

Most of those persons affected are between the ages of 50 and 80 and Bostic said things were projected to get worse if the issue was not tackled.

“Projections indicate that by the year 2025 at least one-third of our population will have a NCD. In the next five years projections indicate an eight per cent increase in the number of Barbadians diagnosed with a NCD,” he disclosed.

“According to the Barbados National Registry, in 2013 there were 14 heart attacks and 53 NCD-related strokes per month. If we extrapolate that data based on the projected eight per cent increase in Barbadians with NCDs we will be looking at record numbers of heart attack and stroke victims presenting to our Accident and Emergency Department.”

The health minister pointed out that as of June 2020, the Cardiology and Diabetes Outpatient Clinics have over 2250 active patients and on a monthly basis these over-crowded clinics receive approximately 260 new referrals from the polyclinics and private physicians.

He said 80 to 90 per cent of those patients were presenting with either deteriorating kidney function, diabetes, hypertension or all three.

“This means that in addition to a robust primary care system for early detection and our national health promotion programme, that we must meet these patients where they are and provide them with the necessary support at the community level. This is the pillar on which the QEH’s Community Outreach Programme rests,” Bostic explained.

“In its first year the QEH Community Outreach Programme will target 500 patients from the hospital’s Cardiology and Diabetes Outpatient Clinics. These patients have been identified as having poor compliance and social challenges, which negatively impact their care, resulting in repeat hospital admissions.”

He said the Community Outreach nurses would visit those patients at their homes.

The minister said it was expected that the implementation of the programme would facilitate better care transitions for vulnerable patients from hospital to the home environment, strengthen the communication between the QEH and vulnerable communities, improve adherence to health recommendations and reduce the need for emergency and specialist services.

Bostic said the programme was part of a suite of initiatives on which the Ministry of Health and Wellness was embarking.

These he said included a Cardiac Project, a Cancer Plan and Project and a National Nutrition Policy and Plan.
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