BVI News

Death of visitor shows up ‘heart’ shortcomings

 Paula Chester-Cumberbatch. Photo Credit: Newsday newspaper in Trinidad

Paula Chester-Cumberbatch. Photo Credit: Newsday newspaper in Trinidad

By Horace Mills, BVI News Online Staff

The passing of a 90-year-old American tourist has brought into sharp focus, the struggle that the state-owned BVI Health Authority (BVIHSA) faces in dealing with patients who require treatment from some specialists including cardiologists – also referred to as heart doctors.

In the case at hand, the American visitor experienced heart complications last week during his vacation on Cooper Island.

He was transported via sea to the Tortola-based Peebles Hospital, which is managed by the BVIHSA.

The patient had a pacemaker, which is a small device that helps one’s heart to beat more regularly.

Medical personnel at Peebles Hospital reportedly tried to assist, before making attempts to have a cardiologist flown into the British Virgin Islands from St Croix in the neighbouring US Virgin Islands.

However, a source close to the developments stated that, before the specialist arrived, it appeared the pacemaker died – and so did the visitor.

When contacted, Chief Executive Officer at the BVIHSA Paula Chester-Cumberbatch confirmed that the patient passed away, but she declined to divulge details of the specific case.

“Being mindful of patient confidentiality, I will not speak directly on this patient’s case without the family’s consent,” she told BVI News Online.

Chester-Cumberbatch however noted that, in relation to the particular case, “the heart specialists were consulted and involved in the delivery of care to the 90-year old patient who unfortunately deteriorated”.

Turning to the general challenges in dealing with patients experiencing heart complications, the hospital boss stated that there is no full-time cardiologist on staff.

According to her, arrangements are in place locally to deal with all cases except Interventional Cardiology, which essentially involves tube-based treatment of structural heart diseases.

“For patients in need of cardiac services and treatment, the BVIHSA provides monthly cardiology services/clinics through HIMA Health (Dr Delrio). Secondary to that, we have a formal arrangement with a cardiologist on-island (Dr Vanterpool) as well as with an interventional cardiologist of St Croix (Dr Griffith).”

“Due to the number of such cases, the BVIHSA does not have a full-time cardiologist on staff. However, patients not needing Interventional Cardiology are managed by Dr Delrio, and as needed by Dr Vanterpool who has privileges at Peebles Hospital. Patients needing intervention are referred overseas for care,” added Chester-Cumberbatch.

She, in the meantime, told BVI News Online that the BVIHSA will explore the possibility of offering more comprehensive cardiology services.

“The BVIHSA continues to work on developing and strengthening its service delivery and range of service. And, as part of its long-term goal, this is one aspect of care that the BVIHSA will be exploring,” said Chester-Cumberbatch.

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