The University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) is increasing its capacity to offer lifesaving therapy to COVID-19 patients with the donation of a plasma-apheresis machine from the Digicel Foundation. A cheque for J$8.5M was presented to the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) and the UHWI on November 24 at Digicel’s Downtown headquarters.
Purchased through a donation from the Digicel Foundation and Digicel Group, the apheresis system is currently a leading part of treatment for severely or critically ill COVID-19 patients in other countries. The new machine will double the capacity of the hospital to apply this method of therapy, which uses the antibodies of a person who has recovered from COVID to treat persons with the illness.
“Jamaica has proven that it is on the cutting edge when it comes to COVID-19 protocols, and as a part of Jamaica’s business community we feel that we have a duty to empower our doctors with cutting-edge technology, so that they can continue to offer the best care possible,” said Denis O’Brien, Chairman of Digicel Group and Patron of the Digicel Foundation. “We all want to see Jamaica and the world return to normal but until then, we must ensure that our doctors are well-equipped in the fight against COVID – this kind of innovative therapy is where that starts.”
With many questions still surrounding the COVID vaccine, apheresis treatment is expected to continue as an essential service during the pandemic. The apheresis system which has been purchased will include additional parts to allow for paediatric collections in the system. The machine will also have various applications beyond treating COVID.
“Digicel touches every aspect of the Jamaican society,” noted Dr Kelvin Metalor, Head of Department, ICU & Anaesthesia, at UHWI. “That’s why you are such a loved company.” He noted that this equipment will bring considerable savings to the health sector, citing the example of a soldier who some years ago needed such treatment and had to be sent overseas at a cost of US$2 million. “All departments at UHWI are profoundly grateful,” he said. “The people of Jamaica and beyond will benefit from this.”
This is the second donation that the Digicel Foundation has made to the MOHW since the onset of COVID, following the donation of personal protective equipment valued at J$1m to the Kingston Public Hospital in June. Additionally, the Digicel Foundation has donated over $100 million in tablets and data plans to enable distance learning and promote social distancing.
Speaking at the cheque handover ceremony, State Minister in the Ministry of Health & Wellness, Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn hailed Digicel’s continued commitment to serve the Jamaican people. “It is really and honour and a pleasure to say ‘thank you’ on behalf of the UHWI and the Ministry of Health,” she said. “When it comes to corporate social responsibility, Digicel stands out.”