Telemedicine Programme gets High Praise from Abaco Resident

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Minister of Health and Social Development Dr. the Hon. Hubert A. Minnis visits with Mr. Charles Bartlett of Marsh Harbour, Abaco, on Wednesday, December 19, 2007, at the Princess Margaret Hospital. Staff Nurse E. Whymns looks on.  Mr. Bartlett is being recognised as the first patient to be successfully treated using the Telemedicine Pilot Programme after presenting at the Marsh Harbour Clinic with an exhorbitant Blood Pressure and high sugar levels. Emergency Room physicians along with healthcare officials at the Clinic were able to stabilize Mr. Bartlett’s condition before transporting him to New Providence for treatment at the Princess Margaret Hospital. (Photo/Patrick Hanna)

By: Matt Maura

NASSAU, The Bahamas — The Telemedicine Pilot Programme, launched just over two weeks ago between the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department of the Princess Margaret Hospital and the Marsh Harbour Clinic in Abaco, is already paying huge dividends for healthcare officials and residents of The Bahamas.

And 63-year-old Charles Bartlett of Marsh Harbour, Abaco, says he is a living and willing testimony to that fact.

“I am just happy to be alive and well,” Mr. Bartlett said on Wednesday, December 19, 2007, just four days after walking into the Marsh Harbour Clinic with an accelerated Blood Pressure and sugar count and facing a stroke.

“When I went to the Clinic, I did not even know where I was and I just passed out, but today I can move about. I can shower and feed myself and I am ready to go home. Telemedicine has been a blessing for me,” Mr. Bartlett added.

Thanks to the Programme, which links the clinic in Marsh Harbour with specialists at the A&E Department in New Providence, Mr. Bartlett was able to avert a stroke or even worse.

He said he doesn’t remember much about what happened, just that his Blood Pressure skyrocketed as a result of his not being able to afford to purchase medication for his ailments.

“I have always said that poor people should have access to medication because it’s not all the time you can afford to pay for it because sometimes you don’t always have the money,” Mr. Bartlett said. “I had to pay my light bill to keep that and pay other bills so I couldn’t get my medication.

“I could have been dead,” Mr. Bartlett continued, “but Telemedicine helped me. I can testify to that. The doctors treated my very well. The nurses have taken good care of me, and I thank God for the fact that I am here today. I can truly thank God for sparing my life and being able to live on to testify that this programme is a good one. I hope many others will be able to benefit from it the way I have been able to benefit from it.”

Minister of Health and Social Development Dr. the Hon. Hubert A. Minnis said Mr. Bartlett presented at the Marsh Harbour Clinic on Saturday, December 15, in a confused and disoriented state, with slurred speech and as an impending stroke victim.

He said Mr. Bartlett was close to being in a comatose state and was experiencing “weakness on one side of his body” which would have suggested an impending stroke. Emergency Room specialists in New Providence examined the patient via the Telemedicine Programme. They determined that he was about to suffer a stroke and were able to, in conjunction with officials at the Marsh Harbour Clinic, stabilize his Blood Pressure and Sugar levels.

Mr. Bartlett was subsequently transferred to Nassau by Air Ambulatory Services and onto the Princess Margaret Hospital, where he was able to receive further care and treatment.

“This shows that Telemedicine works and that if we did not have the system in place Mr. Bartlett could have possibly died or would have definitely suffered a stroke and possibly other factors related to it,” Dr. Minnis said.

“This is also a good story for Mr. Bartlett and his family because it has saved him having to undergo rehabilitation had he gotten a stroke and so as technology progresses in the other islands, we hope to introduce this system to the entire Bahamas,’ Dr. Minnis said.

Dr. Minnis said Abaco was chosen as the initial island on which to launch the programme as a result of the fact that, along with Exuma and Eleuthera, it places the greatest financial burden on the healthcare system in terms of Air Ambulatory Services. It was given the nod over those two islands because of a more expansive infrastructure.

He said the Telemedicine Programme would be the link to take the Princess Margaret Hospital to residents of the Family Islands, thereby creating a true “One Bahamas.”

Addressing Mr. Bartlett’s concern about access to medication, Dr. Minnis said the National Drug Plan would address chronic, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. He said that under the Plan, persons like Mr. Bartlett would be able to go to any participating pharmacy and collect their medication with either little or no charge.

“And, therefore, he will have complete access to his medication and so this will be a thing of the past. Additionally, the system will be designed in such a way that once Mr. Bartlett shows up at a participating pharmacy to collect his medication and does not report again for 3-4 months, the technology will register him as being poor compliant.

“He will then be reported to a central area so that we can then go out and look for him and find out why he did not report back and also ensure that he takes it. So, we will have proper follow-up and a proper system of compliance, so that a situation like this will not happen to anyone in this situation, not just Mr. Bartlett,” Dr. Minnis added.

Caption

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NASSAU, The Bahamas — Minister of Health and Social Development Dr. the Hon. Hubert A. Minnis visits with Mr. Charles Bartlett of Marsh Harbour, Abaco, on Wednesday, December 19, 2007, at the Princess Margaret Hospital. Staff Nurse E. Whymns looks on.  Mr. Bartlett is being recognised as the first patient to be successfully treated using the Telemedicine Pilot Programme after presenting at the Marsh Harbour Clinic with an exhorbitant Blood Pressure and high sugar levels. Emergency Room physicians along with healthcare officials at the Clinic were able to stabilize Mr. Bartlett’s condition before transporting him to New Providence for treatment at the Princess Margaret Hospital. (BIS Photo/Patrick Hanna)