SickKids program assists Caribbean

By Jasminee Sahoye

Dr. Victor Blanchette
Dr. Victor Blanchette

The Hospital for Sick Children through its Global Child Health outreach – SickKids-Caribbean Initiative – has taken modern technology in the form of telemedicine to the Caribbean to assist with paediatric cancers and serious blood disorders cases.

The SickKids-Caribbean Initiative, which involves six countries, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia, is making inroads on a number of fronts.

Dr. Victor Blanchette, a staff physician in the Division of Haematology / Oncology at the Hospital for Sick Children and McCaig Magee, Medical Director, SickKids-Caribbean Initiative, says the Bahamas and Barbados have already opened telemedicine rooms and members of the team are expected to open similar facilities in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia shortly.

“Our strategy is to establish a partnership between healthcare providers at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and their counterparts in the Caribbean using modern technology such as telemedicine, facilitating case consultation, where you can discuss cases, without actually the cases coming here or you going there. This knowledge transfer is now possible and we are doing it,” says Blanchette.

He adds, since the telemedicine consultation rounds were initiated, “we have held 15 consultative second opinion sessions with approximately 32 cases coming from across the participating countries.”

He explains he had received an email about a little boy in St. Vincent who has lumps in his neck and a swollen liver. “We opened up a dialogue with those physicians to talk about what to do, how to diagnose and then how to treat. Whereas we have 32 physicians at SickKids, there is only one physician in most of these islands and they are not always specialists; so they need to be able to work together and work with us,” Blanchette told an event organized by the Caribbean Tourism Organization recently in Toronto.

The Barbadian-born doctor, who has spent more than two decades at SickKids, says “the dream is to collectively develop capacity through education and resources to support the treatment of children locally living within these devastating diseases in the Caribbean.”

A fundraising campaign was initiated to raise $8 million over five years in support of the project. So far, some $7 million was raised at the end of the second year.