Tue May 25 2004
The results of a comprehensive census of persons living with disabilities, including those affected with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), currently being analysed by the Ministry of Social Transformation should be made public by the end of next month, according to Minister Hamilton Lashley yesterday.
This national census was just one of several initiatives, spearheaded by the Ministry’s National Disabilities Unit and in collaboration with other partners, through which Government intended to help enhance the “quality of life” for those afflicted with MS or other debilitating illnesses, stated Lashley.
“A multi-sectoral approach has been adopted,” said Lashley, who joined Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ronald Knight and John Harper, president of the MS Society of Barbados Inc., for the opening ceremony of the MS Society’s Week of Activities to promote education and awareness about the neurological disorder. The event took place at the Almond Bay Conference Centre.
Lashley said the Ministry of Social Transformation was collaborating with the Ministries of health, education, labour, as well as the private sector, to create policies and implement various programmes that would assist the disabled in terms of education, employment, accessibility to public places, transportation and other needs.
Plans included: skills training programmes; an agricultural project in St. Philip on land donated by the Barbados Workers Union; establishing a “respite care facility” to help ease the burden of caring for persons with disabilities; micro-business financing; secondary school awareness programmes to sensitise students about disabilities; and tracer studies to ascertain the needs of the mentally challenged.
The Minister of Social Transformation stressed that his ministry remained committed to moving forward a white paper in Parliament addressing the various challenges faced by this segment of the community, as well as working with other sectors on the issue.
Knight concurred with the need for collaboration, stating that “the chronic disease burden must be shared by all”. He further added, “Partnerships and alliances must be forged at all levels of society in order to tackle this particular problem.”
The Acting Chief Medical Officer stressed that the Health Ministry’s national policy was focused on creating a “supportive environment” for “equitable and accessible healthcare for all”.
According to Knight, chronic diseases “mainly affects the productive age group and contributes significantly to the increasing cost of health intervention and are posing serious challenges for our resources for treatment, care and prevention”.
Knight stated that the Ministry of Health has formed a committee and engaged the services of a consultant to review programmes and formulate an action plan providing an effective strategy for addressing chronic diseases.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Health official noted that changes,
such as expanding the Queen Elizabeth’s physio-therapy unit to polyclinics,
were taking place. However, Knight acknowledged that more needed to be
done in the future, such as possibly providing treatment within the home
setting for a MS sufferer or other similarly challenged individuals.
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