The politics of an MRI machine

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MRI Scanner at St.Kitts Biomedical research Center

The politics of an MRI machine  March 18, 2019

Basseterre, St. Kitts, 18th March, 2019 ( It should be a medical service welcomed by all citizens and embraced within the medical fraternity, but sadly, even an important piece of medical equipment, designed to help save lives, has become, and remains a major political football in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Unfortunately, this is a nation where nothing is spared from the unhelpful cross talk of partisan politics.

Actually, the greatest impediment to the progress of this small Caribbean state, is not its geographical size, population, lack of natural resources, economic power, or any of the normal socio-economic hindrances. No. It is its toxic ‘tribal’ partisan political culture.

St. Kitts and Nevis is a great nation. It has proven, time and time again, how successful it can become, despite its size and limited resources. But the citizenry fails to take stock of just how much more greatness is possible if it understood how to disagree over political ideology and policies and programs, rather than personalize their differences, driven by personalities and narrow minded party fidelity

Kittitians and Nevisians seem to hold their politics supreme over every other aspect of daily life. And they disagree and object to issues even when it is a benefit to them. Party loyalty supersedes nationalism; or so it seems.

Caught in all of this melee is a much needed Magnetic Resonance Imaging, (MRI), machine.

The MRI machine is a medical imaging technique used in radiology to form pictures of the anatomy and the physiological processes of the body in both health and disease.

This is accomplished when the MRI scanners use strong magnetic fields, magnetic field gradients, and radio waves to generate images of the organs in the body, according to medical sources.

There is no argument that the machine has been a welcomed addition to the health care services of the country and that many patients have benefited from its presence.

But where the argument steps in, is where the machine is located.

Those in the opposition make the case that it sends a negative signal with the machine being placed at the St. Kitts Biomedical Research Foundation, located in Bourryeau Village, almost 10 miles away from the main hospital in Basseterre.

That is where the owners elected to place their equipment, while others in the national community, including opposition politicians and their supporters, argue that it would be better placed at the Joseph N France Hospital.

The foundation has been on the forefront of scientific research on various important medical conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease. Yes, some of its work has been controversial, both here and overseas, especially amongst animal rights advocates, who object to the use of monkeys in the research program.

Political critics claim that the MRI machine is being used on both monkeys and humans. This they say is unacceptable.

But in response, the founder of the foundation, Dr. Eugene Redmond Jr. who is a retired Yale University, (USA), professor in the faculty of medicine, said the facility operates with the highest international standards and best practices.

Dr. Redmond in a statement said “Most research facilities and medical schools in the United States allow magnetic resonance imaging of both humans and animals on the same equipment using strict protocols for cleaning and sterilizing all exposed surfaces between such uses just as operating rooms are thoroughly cleaned and resterilized between uses.”

Dr. Redman added further- “The machine at St. Kitts Biomedical MRI (SKBMRI) was designed for human use and the protocol for transitioning from monkeys or humans matches the requirements at Yale University and other medical schools in the U.S. where this is done on a regular basis. The patient reception area and the machine are isolated from the main portion of the research facility. Dual use for research makes the equipment available for human clinical use and reduces the high cost of magnetic resonance imaging for patients by 50% or more while maintaining the highest quality scanning and patient service.”

Minister of Health in St. Kitts & Nevis, Eugene Hamilton defends the facility by reminding that patients from 16 countries around the world use the facility because of the superior service. Additionally, he said this has been good for Health Tourism.

He said that people no longer must travel to neighbouring Antigua for MRI services when it can be done in St. Kitts, not only making it cheaper but that the machine at research foundation is of a far greater quality.

“The importance of having that facility here prevents us from having to buy tickets to go to Antigua, pay for hotel accommodation, get an MRI scan and have to stay there a couple of days feeding yourself, which of course could be escalating in its cost,” Minister Hamilton said.

The facility has seen patients sent there by local medical doctors, including some who support the government and others who are staunch opponents.

What the ramblings do however, is cast doubt in the minds of some patients, who badly need the services of the MRI machine, given their state of health.

It would help build trust though, if the foundation would provide greater public assurances and evidence that the facility is safe and in no way negatively impacts human patients. For those opposing, unless there is hard evidence of problems being caused by the double use of the MRI, they ought to leave this one out of the political diatribe.

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