Photo: Newly-appointed resident Taiwan Ambassador Tom Lee (Right) and Health Minister Wendy Phipps symbolically shake hands close to the donated haemodialysis machines (Spokesman Snap)

By: Precious Mills

BASSETERRE, St.Kitts (November 2018)-This week, the Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan)- acting on behalf of its government- donated three (3) new haemodialysis machines costing over US$60,000 altogether.

On the morning of Tuesday 27th November, a presentation ceremony was held at the Haemodialysis Unit of the Joseph N. France General Hospital in Basseterre where a total of seven machines are now in place.

Newly-appointed resident Taiwan Ambassador Tom Lee pointed out the donation has been made as part of the efforts of the people and government of Taiwan “to help St.Kitts and Nevis increase capacity of controlling the CK (chronic kidney) diseases.”

In touching on the significance of the contributed equipment, he remarked: “…The major cause of deaths in St.Kitts and Nevis are chronic diseases such as diabetes but many of you may not know that one of four diabetes patients many develop CKD (chronic kidney disease) and the haemodialysis machines that we are donating today are very crucial to the patients’ (health). Without the machines, patients with CKD may die. That explains why this project is very important.”

Ambassador Lee said Taiwan is a strong ally of St.Kitts and Nevis and reassured his government’s continued assistance to the Federation.

“We are always ready to respond to your need. Please rest assure that our embassy will continue to work hard so more and more people in this country can benefit from our cooperation projects.”

Health Minister Wendy Phipps informed that “When the Team Unity administration took office, we would have inherited an arrangement whereby there was a joint venture between a company out of the French West Indies and JNF management team on behalf of the government which at the time would have been partnering in terms of the Haemodialysis Unit as well as the CT scan services at the hospital.”

She highlighted the challenges of operating with four machines at the time with a kidney register of about 86 persons which saw issues like no down time of machines and long working hours for the staff.

According to the Health Minister, by 2016, the government purchased on its own four haemodialysis machines with one being a mobile unit.

She recalled discussions with Ambassador Lee’s predecessor George Gow Wei Chiou in seeking assistance in the area of addressing the “onslaught” of non-communicable diseases (NCD) noting that 83% of deaths in St.Kitts and Nevis is attributed to such.

Phipps informed that subsequent to discussions with former ambassador Chiou, her colleague Minister Eugene Hamilton “journeyed to Taiwan and then cemented that arrangement and what we are doing here today is the actual materialisation of that expression to the haemodialysis unit.”

She continued: “So in effect with the four that would have been purchased in 2016 and these three, we now have seven machines that are entirely owned and operated by the government.”

As informed by Phipps: “Those inherited upon officer are no longer useable.”

The Health Minster spoke about preventing NCDs.

“…Our kidney patient listing continues to grow but at the same time we must do everything in our power to make sure that not only are we treating NCDs but that we are preventing them.”

Phipps thanked Ambassador Lee for the gift from his government noting that such “is an extension of the partnership that we would have already developed over the years in terms of health care but more particularly in terms of the chronic kidney Disease Project.”

That project, she said, was started two years ago “in the public health system so that persons can be properly screened ahead of time to know what the predisposition would have been to kidney failure etc. where possible and prevent it.”