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Tag: Dr Ahmad Risk

Island ‘could not cope’ with plane crash, warns medic

Dr Ahmad Risk
Dr Ahmad Risk

Medical teams on St Helena would struggle to cope with a major accident at the island’s new airport, a visiting doctor has warned.

Dr Ahmad Risk, who has been qualified for 40 years, has acted as a healthcare consultant as well as working as a civilian and military doctor, in the UK and internationally.

He praised staff at Jamestown’s hospital after working alongside them as a temporary locum doctor, saying they had to cope with inadequate facilities in challenging conditions.

He said massive improvements were needed in the next two years in order to bring healthcare on the island up to the standards tourists would expect.

And when asked about what would happen if there was a major accident at the airport, he resplied: “Heaven forbid.

“If we have a major incident, say a plane crash, without facilities it will be quite a struggle.

“I have to be frank and straight about it: with our current facilities on the island we cannot cope reasonably well.

“We will cope, to a certain extent, and people will put out all the stops and they will not sleep for days; they will do that because that’s what they trained to do. But the outcomes may not be as favorable as if you had a different set-up.”

St Helena Government said that plans were in hand for a major upgrade of the hospital and its facilities.

A detailed emergency plan was published as part of the original planning application for the airport. It can be found on the St Helena Air Access website.

The Risk Assessment: Castle responds to doctor’s comments

Dr Ahmad Risk ended a two-month stint as a locum medic in Jamestown’s hospital by telling Saint FM listeners his views on the state of healthcare on St Helena. He had high praise for staff, but also raised concerns about facilities, the airport, and the alarming number of people suffering diabetes and hypertension. St Helena Government has responded to his comments.

The doctor said young people were being led into the grip of some of the worst medical killers and that it was the duty of parents and schools to help them live more healthily. What role do schools currently play in preventing diabetes, obesity and hypertension?

SHG: The Education Directorate are concerned that young people make the best choices they can about their personal health.  This includes becoming informed about the effect of diet on health.

As part of the Personal, Social and Health Education programme, children are informed about healthy living.  For example, the health promotion coordinator regularly visits primary schools to give talks about healthy eating.

Schools have also advised parents and carers with regard to the best ingredients for healthy packed lunches, and the directorate is about to refresh the advice for parents and carers.

And sport and activities are of course a very important part of the school curriculum, and all of our schools encourage maximum participation in physical education.

The island has a very proud tradition of healthy competitive sport, as the recent highly successful Primary Athletics Day (won by St Pauls) demonstrated.

Is it true that the government reduced import duty on sugary foods and drinks from 40% to 20% in order to simplify the tariffs? 

(Awaiting answer)

Dr Risk also said that he had to insist of being given paper towels to dry his hands because the cotton towels used at the hospital were medically unacceptable – presumably, because of the risk of spreading infection. Could you comment, please? 

SHG: Paper towels are generally utilised in all clinical areas.  Sometimes stocks run out and occasionally towels need to be used, and these are changed and washed regularly in such instances.

He also said the island needed an intensive care unit, and much better capacity to deal with any major incident at the airport. 

SHG: Plans are in hand for hospital redevelopment which will result in improved intensive care facilities.

Children in danger from diet and poor exercise, warns medic
Children in danger from diet and poor exercise, warns medic

The Risk Assessment: hospital team does ‘an amazing job’

Staff at the hospital on St Helena have been praised for the way they cope with challenging working conditions, by departing medic Dr Ahmad Risk.

He told Saint FM: “The front line staff – the doctors and nurses – do an amazing job under what I regard as very difficult conditions.

Medical care is a very good standard for the resources available. It is exceedingly good. They do a very good job. And it works for the island.”

But he warned that the arrival of large numbers of tourists – by island standards – would lead to a demand for better facilities for those who need care.

He said: “If you are attracting tourists from places where healthcare is funded on a different level, there will be a need to apply international standards that I’m afraid we don’t meet at the moment.

“Big strides have been made. Everthing can be improved.

“The resources of the island are not infinite and that will always be the case, so you have to manage your resources intelligently to extract the maximum output. On the whole that works very well.

“The resources of the island are not infinite and that will always be the case, so you have to manage your resources intelligently to extract the maximum output.

“It works on the goodwill of the front line staff who do the best they can, and they do that extremely well.”

Asked what could be done to improve the situation, he said bluntly: “Build the airport.”

Then he added: “You need money. Quite a bit.”

As it is, the health directorate has been required to accept cuts in its budget.

Dr Risk said: “Everywhere is being asked to cut; not just on St Helena but where I come from in the UK, so we have to cut our cloth.”

Children in danger from diet and poor exercise, warns medic

Young people on St Helena are being led into the grip of some of the medical world’s biggest killers, a departing doctor has warned.

Dr Ahmad Risk delivered his warning after two months as a temporary “locum” medic in Jamestown – watching parents ply their children with sugary drinks and salty food that could be cutting their lives short. 

And he said the whole community must play its part in fending off the disease – including families, teachers and the government.

The incidence of diabetes on St Helena is already five times as high as the global average. It has been blamed for more than six out of ten recent deaths on the island.

But poor diet and lack of exercise among modern-day children could make the scale of the problem even greater in the future.

Research shows obesity in childhood puts people at far greater risk of diabetes and other serious health problems in later life.

That means the sugary drinks and processed food the children consume today is greatly increasing the danger of dying prematurely, decades down the line.

Lack of fresh food makes the problem far more challenging, Dr Risk told Saint FM Community Radio, in an interview broadcast the day after his departure from the island.

He said: “We are bringing up a generation on processed food and canned food. These foods are notorious for their fat content, their sugar content, their salt content.

“And that’s dangerous.

“We are really leading a generation into one of the biggest killers in the medical world: diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.”

On 1 March 2013 there were 645 islanders being treated for the condition out of a population of just over 4,000 – nearly all with the avoidable type-2 strain, which doubles the risk of early death.

St Helena Government has warned that the high cost of treatment is crippling the island’s over-stretched health service, as well as causing a massive social cost – with too many people unable to work because of it.

Officials have taken serious steps to manage diabetes, appointing a specialist nurse running frequent clinics around the island.

But Dr Ahmed – who has 40 years’ medical experience around the world – said action needed to start with the very young.

He said: “I would like to put the responsibility on the family, on the parents and the schools.

“It has to start with the really young ones and it has to start within the home. We need to educate, raise awareness, and make the availability of good food a reality.

But he admitted: “You can’t tell people ‘You must eat fresh fruit and veg’, if they can’t find them or they are too expensive. Frozen veg are okay but not as good as fresh veg.

“So it’s a shared responsibility. The community as a whole – whether it’s government or the entrepreneurs or the industrialists on the island – need to do their share.

“This island used to supply a thousand ships a year. There’s plenty of land, plenty of talent, plenty of people who can can grow things. The island has very fertile soil – you can grow anything you want here.

“I don’t know why this is not happening.”

Lack of exercise among young people was leading to greater levels of obesity, he said.

“I find that the older people actually do more exercise than the younger people. They walk up the hill, and walk down the hill.”

Among adults, high consumption of alcohol is adding yet further to the rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, said Dr Risk.

He predicted that future tourists arriving by air would demand higher levels of health care.

But he said: “We need to think of the Saint population, particularly the young people of St Helena. If we do not look after their health and education now, then we are really being hostage to the future.” 

Food is the key to island life – and tackling its health crisis
Killer diabetes puts island under strain, says the Castle
Diabetes cases soar as island struggles with cost of healthcare

Health effects of childhood obesity – US health website