Hinterland health workers trained to detect leprosy cases

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Health workers from several hinterland districts are being trained at the Palms buildings, Brickdam to detect and manage cases of leprosy.

Minister of Public Health Dr. George Norton, addressing the mostly hinterland health care providers, said the training will create awareness and build the capacity of the hinterland health workers, and simultaneously, boost the national leprosy programme. This training is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Public Health and the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO). The training ends on September 16.

Dr. George Norton (front second left), Dr. William Adu-Krow (front second right), Facilitators Dr. Jaison Barreto (front left), and Dr. Linda Faye Lehman (front right) along with members of the Ministry of Public Health’s National Leprosy Control Programme and hinterland nurses.
Dr. George Norton (front second left), Dr. William Adu-Krow (front second right), Facilitators Dr. Jaison Barreto (front left), and Dr. Linda Faye Lehman (front right) along with members of the Ministry of Public Health’s National Leprosy Control Programme and hinterland nurses.

Minister Norton commended the programme’s coordinators for involving Regions One, Seven, Eight and Nine because the training will aid the health workers in recognising, treating and managing cases of leprosy early, and also to prevent and or minimise impairments. “It is the Ministry’s vision to concentrate on prevention …on most of the diseases and sicknesses from an early stage,” the Minister said.

Guyana has eliminated leprosy at the national level and the fight continues to have it eradicated at the sub-national level. Although there are a small number of cases, there is no room for complacency, the Minister urged.

Meanwhile, PAHO/WHO’s representative Dr. William Adu-Krow said the Ministry’s training for leprosy diagnosis, assessment of disability, leprosy prevention and management and promotion of self-care are to strengthen the leprosy control programme.

PAHO/WHO representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow addressing the participants at the Leprosy training programme
PAHO/WHO representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow addressing the participants at the Leprosy training programme

Dr. Adu-Krow explained that the main objective of the training is to develop the capacity of health workers from the hinterland regions to recognise, treat and manage cases of leprosy and to prevent and or minimise impairments and disability. “Is not to say that people are not exposed to management of leprosy, but training like this increases the index of suspicion,” Dr. Adu-Krow said.

Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton, delivering remarks at the Leprosy training programme
Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton, delivering remarks at the Leprosy training programme

In relation to children, the Public Health Minister pointed out that there is still a number of challenges in detecting the disease among children. Also there is the challenge of stigma and discrimination with persons affected with leprosy. “That is why I am happy that the hinterland is included in the training because we must not wait for affected persons to come to us, but we must go out to them and assess them so they can be treated,” Minister Norton explained.

In order to address the discrimination and stigma attached to the disease, massive public health education is of paramount importance and that is something the Ministry will work on.

Facilitator of the training Dr. Jaison Barreto from Brazil explained that migration can cause leprosy so no one is completely free from the disease. The doctor encouraged the health workers to seek persons who might be affected and not be afraid to treat them for the disease can be eliminated from Guyana completely.

A section of the participants at the Leprosy training programme
                                            A section of  participants at the Leprosy training programme

The other facilitator of the training, Dr. Linda Faye Lehman from Washington, D.C echoed similar sentiments. Dr. Lehman explained that she is happy to be a part of the training and encouraged the health workers to work diligently to eliminate leprosy in Guyana.

The Minister expressed gratitude for PAHO/WHO’s assistance in diagnosing and managing leprosy.

In the last two decades, Guyana reported 31 new cases of leprosy, according to a report from the Government Information Agency (GINA). Hansen’s disease also known as leprosy is caused by a slow-growing type of bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae. Leprosy primarily affects the skin and the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. The main symptom of leprosy is dis-figuration of the skin, sores, lumps, or bumps that do not go away after several weeks or months.

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