Oct 03, 2015 News
“Preventative medicine is always more effective and inexpensive than being reactive,” said Dr. Donald Wallerson, recently.
Dr. Wallerson, a Cardiologist who operates a non-invasive practice in the Bronx, New York, was recently part of the Bridges Medical Mission, which among other things, facilitated screening for patients with heart-related complications here.
Tackling cardiac concerns was seen as crucial to the visiting medical team in light of observations that Guyana has limited high-priced care available in this regard.
But according to Dr. Wallerson, cardiac conditions can in fact be preventable. This is due to the fact, he noted, that there are risk factors that must be addressed early.
“Even before we get to the point of testing we can get to the risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes and control them,” said Dr. Wallerson, who pointed out that the two conditions are major risk factors for cardiac complications and even stroke.
“Before the patient has a heart attack or stroke there are diagnostic tests that can be done to indicate which patients are in need of aggressive intervention,” said the Cardiologist. He however noted that such tests are understandably limited because of high costs.
“My understanding is that in the city (Georgetown) only the Caribbean Heart Institute (CHI) can give these things. One patient quoted to me an exercise stress test costs $250,000 and that is just not available to him,” informed D. Wallerson.
But according to him, if such tests were more readily available to patients, “I think that we will be able to have more of an impact.”
Dr. Wallerson is a Guyanese by birth. He migrated to the United States in 1969, where he attended high school, college and medical school. He later did specialist training in Cardiology. He has been offering his expertise to the Bridges Medical Mission which has been coming to Guyana for the past eight years.
During his recent visit here, the Cardiologist facilitated screening for patients at the Liliendaal, Project Dawn, Greater Georgetown, facility. Aided by an electrocardiogram (EKG) machine, Dr. Wallerson was able to examine the structure of the heart and evaluate the function of the heart of patients he attended to.
Several of the patients had multiple risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, family history of heart disease, history of smoking and excess alcohol consumption. Some patients attended to also suffered from chest pains and shortness of breath.
“We can evaluate these patients by using techniques such as EKG and the echocardiogram to determine whether they are related to the heart and if they are we can suggest interventions and medications that might help,” said Dr. Wallerson.
But according to him, many of the risk factors are unappreciated and therefore remain untreated. He however noted that even if appreciated sometimes the high cost of medications cause patients to only be partially treated.
Moreover, one of the points emphasised by Dr. Wallerson during his recent visit is the importance of patients not only being administered medication but that they continue the recommended regimen on a regular basis.
“Do whatever you have to do to get your medication,” Dr. Wallerson urged patients even as he disclosed how that they could take advantage of the resources that are available overseas where medications are likely to be less expensive.
While he was able to provide at least two months of medications to patients with cardiac conditions, Dr. Wallerson asserted that the Mission is not in a position to sustain this service. “We have got them started but then I have stressed to them the need to continue with local care in the clinics or establish relations with a doctor so that the medications may be continued because it is critical that they continue to have medications from whatever sources is available to them,” said the Cardiologist.
He however reiterated that if the risk factors are addressed before side effects manifest, tackling the health conditions, locally, could be affordable.
Moreover, the Medical Mission initiated discussions with Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings, during which it was stressed that “preventative medicine is so much more inexpensive.”
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