09th November 2015
Antigua and Barbuda's observance of Epilepsy Week 2015 got underway with an opening ceremony at the Antigua and Barbuda Hospitality Training Institute at Dutchman’s Bay Last Evening (Sunday).
The event, which is being held under the auspices of the Ministry of Health and Environment, attracted a number of high profile dignitaries and representatives from the medical fraternity to include, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Permanent Representative to the United Nations, H.E. Dr. Walton “Aubrey” Webson, Dr. Dave Clarke of Dell Children’s Medical Centre in Austin Texas and Dr. Derek Chong of the New York University.
In addressing the gathering, Minister of Health Molwyn Joseph said the subject touched a personal cord as he and his family had to deal with this disease as it affected a family member for many years.
In relating his personal experience, Joseph explained, “When I was asked to make this statement and I was told of the Epilepsy week, my Chief Medical Officer was in my office and I gave her a hint of why this topic is so important to me. My sister was only about nine years old when she was struck with Epilepsy, we had just returned from church and we had settled in, when there was a commotion in the house and at that time we did not have electricity and everyone was awaken because my sister had her first bout of Epilepsy.’
Joseph continued, “We did not know what it was, we thought she was having a nightmare but subsequently she had a repeat and then as she went on to primary school she began having frequent seizures. The tragic news is that at the age of eighteen, or just about two months before she turned eighteen, she had a seizure and she fell at home on a nail and she died from tetanus”, Minister Joseph concluded.
Joseph also promised to leave no stone unturned when it comes to providing the best care for the people of the twin island state, declaring that he will go all out to find the best treatment and care for the people of Antigua and Barbuda.
"And so quite often my stridencies in dealing with the issues of health care are misunderstood but anywhere there is a treatment for an ailment for any citizen of this country, it must be made available to that citizen. I want to declare to all the Antiguans and Barbudans this evening that they need not fear to come forward and I assure you that as the Minister of Health, I will do everything in my capacity and my ability for you to have access to proper treatment", Joseph said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Webson said that his involvement in this initiative has been in the works for some time.
"This began with some activities at an International and sub-regional conference held in 2012 and at that time Dr Clarke and a number of other colleagues and myself began to talk about servicing Antigua and the Caribbean and building an awareness around Epilepsy, a disease, a condition that is not widely dealt it, a condition that has social stigma in our society. A little under a year ago, I picked up my phone and I contact folks at the Ministry of health and the Minister who I had the opportunity of meeting just as I was taking up my position, infact, he interviewed me for my position, told me of his passion for healthcare and I told them that we are going to do something through the ministry of health, looking at Epilepsy and the rest is history.
He said while here, the team will conduct clinical work as well as building awareness about the disease.
Seven of the visiting dignitaries received tokens of appreciation during the ceremony. The Permanent Secretary within the Ministry of Health and Environment, Hildred Simpson expressed gratitude to the team for taking time out to come to Antigua and shed more light on Epilepsy, a disease which most people have had some form experience with.
During the week, the medical team will work along with local officials at the Mount St. John Medical Center and the local clinics to see patients affected by the disease.
Educational talks for the community and health practitioners will also be conducted.
On Tuesday, 10th November, a Community Talk will be held at the Medical Benefits Scheme Conference Room, Nevis Street from 5:30 - 6:30pm and the general public including patients and families and educational and health practitioners are invited.
During the session, Dr Dave Clarke will address the topic: Mimickers of epilepsy, identifying the epileptic patient, while Dr Jeffery Titus will speak on the Topic: Neurocognitive co-morbidities in Epilepsy.
Dr. Derek Chong will enlighten the audience on the subject; Reducing the stigma of epilepsy: driving, work and relationships.
On Wednesday from 5pm – 6pm, a Nurses Talk will take place at MSJMC 1st floor auditorium, and a Physician Talk at the same venue will be held from 6:30 – 7:30 pm.
Epilepsy is known as a neurological disorder marked by sudden recurrent episodes of sensory disturbance, loss of consciousness, or convulsions, associated with abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
With the recent implementation of the Medical Benefits Act 2010 and Medical Benefits Regulations 2011 that became effective in July 2011, the Medical Benefits Scheme has added Epilepsy to the list of the eleven (11) diseases it covers.
MINISTRY OF HEALTH
ST. JOHN’S, ANTIGUA, W.I.
Telephone: (268) 462-5522
Facsimile: (268) 462-5003