More than 80 patients were screened over the weekend for hip, knee and related surgeries as part of an initiative by the Ministry of Health, the NCRHA and Operation Walk Maryland (OWM) to provide surgeries, artificial limbs and walkers for patients who have been on waiting lists in the local health system for extended periods for hip and knee replacements.
The operations which will be held over five days, will be performed by a team of 55 volunteer surgeons and medical support staff from Maryland who have been providing surgeries over the past five years for patients in countries that cannot afford the high cost of the artificial joints, hips and procedures. The OWM team includes seven nationals of Trinidad and Tobago.
In supporting the team from Maryland, Health Minister, Terrence Deyalsingh said that apart from boosting the transfer of knowledge, the project will be used as a catalyst to increase the number of orthopedic surgeries performed locally.
He said less than eight orthopedic surgeries have been performed annually because the Regional Health Authorities have been facing exorbitant cost from the local third party suppliers for joints, bolts and limbs.
He said when he first became minister, he was accosted by patients who were frustrated about having to wait years for surgery. He said hospitals could not do as many surgeries because they had to buy supplies and parts from local suppliers who often charged markups that were 46 times the cost of the items. Only a few surgeries could be performed and this cost the RHA’s $26 million from their annual allocations.
He said “over the next 6 months to a year, the responsibility for procuring prosthetics and joint replacement supplies will be transferred to the Central Tenders Board to bring down the cost, as it will be open to more competitive bidding. This will lead to prices that are more in line with international norms and more patients will benefit from our investment in health care.
In welcoming the initiative by Minister Deyalsingh to address the high cost of prosthetics, the NCRHA’s Chief Executive Officer (Ag), Davlin Thomas said, “the Authority is determined to meet and exceed the obvious and noble intentions of the Minister of Health to provide premium health services to the population in a cost effective manner.
“We intend to become, and to be known as the very best at delivering quality health care – whether in the public or private sector. The passion and dedication exhibited by the NCRHA team to support this initiative as well as our other current projects are testimonies to those staff and their families who have given much of their lives to improve the health of the population.”
He said hip replacement surgery is a very expensive undertaking in Trinidad and Tobago, and this project is expected to save taxpayers more than TT$10 million.
Operation Walk Maryland (OWM) is a volunteer group of doctors and medical professionals based in Maryland, USA, who offer their services, expertise and equipment – including prosthetics and walkers, at no cost to patients benefitting from the surgeries.
The patients benefitting from the program, were referred from RHAs across the country and were screened for surgery over the past few weeks by doctors based on their medical situation.