By Jasminee Sahoye
Often times, stories are told about Canadians giving back, either to their schools, communities, countries of birth or adoptive home country but for a Guyana-born Toronto doctor, he wants to save new-born lives in Guyana by assisting with much needed resources to reduce infant mortality, a problem in developing countries.
On a visit to Guyana four years ago, Dr. Narendra Singh, Chief of Pediatrics at Humber River Regional Hospital was dismayed to see the facilities and equipment that the hospital’s neo-natal unit had been using.
Due to lack of incubators, some babies were being cared for in wooden boxes and there were no specialized staff. “They were good people, very well intentioned, but without proper training or equipment,” Dr. Singh says. “They were doing the very best they could given the circumstances.”
So he started a residency program for physicians in Guyana to receive pediatric training. By taking specialists from the University of Toronto, McMaster University and other universities in North America together with their Guyanese counterparts and the Guyanese government, Dr Singh was able to develop a sustainable training program that will increase the number of specialists in the country. Doctors give their time to travel to Guyana to teach.
This September will see the number of pediatricians in the country double from two to four, with eight more in training.
Once training was underway, Dr Singh addressed the need for the correct technology and equipment. Guyana Help the Kids (GHTK), a registered Canadian charity, was formed to help raise funds for the procurement of up to date incubators, ventilators, monitors and other equipment.
As a result of GHTK’s efforts, the hospital in the nation’s capital, Georgetown opened a new 24-bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in 2012 and within its first year, infant mortality in the hospital was reduced by 50 per cent. Over 80 babies are alive today who might otherwise have died. Another NICU was opened in New Amsterdam in May this year.
Infants are now cared for using the same equipment as would be found in any NICU in Canada. “It’s a good relationship,” explains Dr Singh. “The hospitals provide the rooms, the oxygen and the AC. We provide the equipment, and we train the doctors and nurses.”
GHTK’s program has now expanded to include neonatal nurse training in conjunction with the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. The first eleven nurses graduated from the program in June and 20 more are expected to graduate next year.
GHTK has plans for more NICU’s around the country and also plans to start training technicians in the care of the specialized equipment.
Technical experts from Humber River Regional hospital, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Kids have volunteered to assist with this critical aspect of the program.
As part of its ongoing fundraising efforts, GHTK is holding its annual dinner and dance on October 5th at the Woodbine Banquet Hall. The event will have a Vegas theme with gaming tables and will feature live music from the Triple Play Band. Tickets are available online or by calling 416-277- 3550.
More information about GHTK can be obtained at www.GuyanaHelpTheKids.com