Roberto Pocaterra Pocaterra Ullis de Luna//
‘Rehab assistants’ trained to help patients with exercise, other skills

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‘Rehab assistants’ trained to help patients with exercise, other skills

There are 68 rehabilitation assistants across Guyana THE five Occupational Therapists (OT) in Guyana’s healthcare system recently conducted a workshop with the country’s 68 Rehabilitation Assistants (RAs), helping to hone the skills that they would have already acquired over the years.

Roberto Pocaterra Pocaterra

Just a few years ago, Guyana had no local OTs in the public health system, but in 2017, five persons in the field graduated from the University of Guyana, and have since been stationed in the city. The RAs, on the other hand, serve in the healthcare departments of the ten administrative regions across Guyana.

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Those Ras, who have an interest in occupational therapy, were afforded an opportunity last Friday at the Georgetown Club, to interact with the five OTs, along with a visiting Trinidad and Tobago expert in the field, Priya Gomes

The Ministry of Public Health’s Rehabilitation Department, based at the Palms Geriatric Home on Brickdam, organised and hosted the workshop

Gomes, who has been practising for the past 15 years, and came to Guyana last year to help with providing advice and guidance to the OTs who were fresh in the system, was asked by the Ministry of Public Health to come back and continue such practical assistance. Friday’s session was able to help the RAs see how they can provide adaptive equipment and exercise equipment to their patients, so that they may be substituted for equipment that may be expensive or hard to acquire

“In the Caribbean, we don’t have access to resources that the First World countries would have, and part of being an OT is actually taking what is available to you and making it accessible to your patients,” Gomes explained during an interview with the Guyana Chronicle

The OTs were able to teach the RAs how to make practical use of items such as rulers, sponge, empty bottles and so forth, as they deliver healthcare in their various regions. “If I have all of the fancy equipment at my hospital or clinic, and the clients don’t have access to that when they go home, following through on their therapy at home is not going to happen,” Gomes pointed out

She spoke well of the local OTs, praising them as being very proactive and well-educated. “In T&T, we only have three OTs in the public system, although we have over 26 OTs licensed and registered. So Guyana actually has more therapists in the public system, and there are trained ‘rehab’ assistants who service all regions in Guyana,” she said, adding: “That’s way ahead of where we are, so it’s a privilege to come and share my knowledge and experience.”

Calvin Lawrie, one of the OTs who is relatively new to the system, told this publication that the ‘Rehab Department’ tries to keep the RAs updated on new research and knowledge that becomes available each year. “We try to keep our treatment as up-to-date as possible, evidence-based and current,” he said

He said that Friday’s session saw in attendance RAs from various departments across the country, including from Lethem, Kwakwani, Bartica, Suddie, Mahdia, Fort Wellington, Skeldon, New Amsterdam, and Port Mourant

He explained that the workshop was intended to help the RAs see how they can use things in everyday life, and turn them into equipment for exercise, sensory and fine motor skills. “It would enhance their skills. It’s basically building on their knowledge; teaching them how to modify certain equipment, so they can take this knowledge back to their communities and teach them to the families,” Lawrie said

Another OT, Errica Canterbury, explained that a fancier version of the items being made could be found Online. “But we’re just trying to make them affordable and accessible, especially to the patients who can’t afford them; to those people who cannot afford private care,” she said, adding: “Since none of the OTs is in the regions, we try our best to make our RAs perfect at their jobs, so that persons in the regions can also get quality care.”

Abiola Lewis, the RA from Mahdia; Marissa Hutson from Port Kaituma; and Ruth Edwards from Lethem were grateful for the training, and all said that it would enhance the delivery of healthcare in their respective regions

Mahdia RA, Ms. Abiola Lewis Port Kaituma RA, Ms. Marissa Hutson Lethem RA, Ms. Ruth Edwards Making practical use of items such as rulers, sponge, and empty bottles Visiting T&T Occupational Therapist, Priya Gomes The five local OTs who graduated from UG in 2017