It is a well-known fact that Barbados has a high incidence of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer and hypertension, and these are especially prevalent among people over the age of 65.
Recent figures from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) show that in 2015, cardiovascular diseases accounted for 31 per cent of all deaths in Barbados. In 2014, 584 strokes were recorded, and 256 people who went to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital with strokes died. For 2015, Barbados recorded that one in five people had diabetes, with more than half of them over 65.
To this end, as part of its new health insurance policy, the Barbados Association of Retired Persons (BARP) is now offering its members who may be suffering from any of these illnesses the option of treatment in Colombia.
At its first meeting for 2019 held recently at the Accra Beach Hotel and Spa, BARP members heard from four specialists from health care institutions in Colombia, which is now considered a leader in Latin America when it comes to health care. Their trip was facilitated by Pro-Colombia, a government agency that promotes products and services available in Colombia as well as the country itself for tourism.
Executive Manager of BARP Elsa Webster told members, “Our new health plan is linked to these institutions in Colombia to assist with any procedures that cannot be done in Barbados or the English-speaking Caribbean. But they must be pre-approved by one of the three insurance companies we work with, namely Sagicor, Brydens Insurance and Beacon Insurance.” She further notified them that any reimbursements would be paid based on Colombian exchange rates.
The first specialist who spoke was Dr Sergio Calfiero, radiation oncologist and division head at the Clinica Del Occidente, which specializes in cancer treatment. He noted that since the 1980s, the incidence of cervical cancer had dropped from 11 per 100,000 in 1998 to sevem per 100,000 in 2016, and shared results of a three-year study his clinic had done with 99 cervical cancer patients in varying stages of the illness.
“The average age of the patients was 55 years, but some were in their twenties and thirties, and they were primarily at stages two and three of the illness. We used radiation therapy to treat them, and we found that after 40 months, 96 per cent of the patients had no symptoms of chronic toxicity after receiving the treatment, while 86 per cent of them were cancer free. Nine of the patients had not responded to the treatment because they were in a highly advanced stage of the disease, while it recurred in four cases,” he said.
Director of the International Patient Centre at the Centro Medico Imbanaco de Cali, Maria Fernanda Valencia, said “Heart disease is responsible for every seven deaths in the United States, and in 2010 the global cost of cardiovascular diseases was calculated at US$863 billion. By 2030, this figure is expected to reach US$1,044 billion, and cardiovascular diseases account for more lives than all cancers and respiratory diseases combined.”
The Director of the Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant Programme at the Hospital Internacional de Colombia Luis Eduardo Echevenia Correa told members that Colombia has been carrying out heart transplant operations since 1985, “and since then, we have done 902 in eight different centres across the country. The problem is, we do not have many donors, and most countries do not allow people to travel elsewhere to receive heart transplants. Our facility also has an air ambulance and does pump implants to assist patients with heart problems. We recently carried out that procedure on a patient from Eastern Europe who had a heart attack while he was on a ship in the Caribbean Sea. We flew him to our facility, operated on him, and after spending a few weeks with us, he is now fully recovered and back home.”
Meanwhile, Head of the Cardiology Unit at the Fundacion Valle Del Lilli Healthcare in Colombia Dr Juan Esteban Gomez, stated that “non-communicable diseases account for 63 per cent, or 36 million of the 57 million deaths recorded every year, and 80 per cent of those deaths occur in low to middle-income countries. Hypertension is the leading cause of death worldwide, and the leading causes of death in people under 60 years old are heart disease, stroke, diabetes, prostate cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer and kidney disease.” He advised the BARP members present to work on modifying their diets and lifestyles in order to prolong their lives even if they already suffered from any of these conditions. (DH)