— haematologists to be trained, Sickle Cell lab to be developed
MUCH emphasis is expected to be placed on the fight against Sickle Cell and Thalassemia, as the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) partners with the Ministry of Public Health and other stakeholders to battle the burden of these diseases, which affect 3.3 per cent of the country’s population.
This is according to Coordinator of the Chronic Diseases Department, Dr Kavita Singh, who addressed a gathering at a Sickle Cell and Thalassemia stakeholders meeting on Wednesday.
According to Google, Sickle Cell disease and thalassemia are genetic disorders caused by errors in the genes for haemoglobin, a substance composed of a protein (“globin”) plus an iron molecule (“heme”) that is responsible for carrying oxygen within the red blood cells.
Though its presence in persons can be detected, Dr Singh said that there are still many instances where these diseases have gone unnoticed.
“Strides are being made to address the issue, given that in the past there was a lack of information. However, to date, the risk-factor surveillance exercise has made detection of these diseases easy and more possible to be addressed,” iterated the Coordinator of the Chronic Diseases Department.
Recent statistics show that 976 blood samples from the 10 administrative regions were sent abroad for testing and results showed that three samples were tested positive for Sickle Cell.
Eighteen showed traits of Sickle Cell, while four samples came back positive with Thalassemia.
However, Dr Singh lamented that Guyana is behind when it comes to the management of these diseases, and recommended that mass screening is needed as well as capacity-building in order to ensure that testing could be done in Guyana.
It was pointed out that the Ministry of Public Health has acquired an analyser to check babies for these diseases, but they have no trained person capable of using it, “so this is an issue that needs to be immediately handled,” said the coordinator.
Meanwhile, PAHO/WHO Resident Representative, Dr William Adu-Krow, also supported the fact that Guyana does not have the laboratory technology to identify certain levels of Sickle Cell and Thalassemia.
Added to that, it was identified that Guyana has no haematologist and needs one in order to increase their management of these diseases.
As such, Dr. Adu-Krow pledged the support of PAHO to the Ministry and civil society stakeholders, in the battle against Sickle Cell and Thalassemia.
“We have asked the ministry to select two physicians who are interested in haematology, so that we can send them to train and become haematologists, as part of capacity-building,” said Dr Adu-Krow as he highlighted that the Sickle Cell clinics need to be revived.
He stressed that the Ministry must seriously pursue the organisation of Sickle Cell clinics at the GPHC, given that the children’s ward is nicely separated, however, the adult patients are placed together as part of the Chronic Diseases Unit.
Added to that, it was stressed that serious work needs to be done in the area of health promotion and counselling, so as to “prevent the crisis before it happens,” said Dr. Adu-Krow, as he pointed out that a French specialist, who aided in the development of the Zika lab in Guyana, will be returning to assist in the making the Sickle Cell Lab a reality.
These prospective initiatives are all part of PAHO’s effort to help Guyana in their battle against these diseases, thus, they intend to also send a team to Jamaica to see how they assist civil society partners in the management of these two maladies.
In accepting the support from PAHO, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Karen Boyle, expressed gratitude to stakeholders such as PAHO, the Guyana Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia Association, and Fight against Sickle Cell Stigma (FACES).
Dr Boyle also supported the call for more sensitisation programmes, improved diagnosis and early screening, noting that the ministry is ready to undertake the challenges in the fight against these diseases.