Children admitted at the Bustamante Hospital for Children will begin to receive animal assisted therapy during the upcoming Christmas season, for a period of 18 months.
Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton said the pilot project is a patient-centred intervention that will complement healthcare delivery to hospitalised paediatric patients undergoing procedures or who require long-term hospitalisation.
He introduced Dr Teddy Barks, a golden retriever will be the brand ambassador for the project and shared that the dog will be its main therapy animal.
The golden retriever was seated in the gallery with Joey Brown, curator of the Hope Zoo.
Birds, rabbits, and kittens will also participate in the project and will be sourced from the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA), Hope Zoo or Montego Bay Animal Haven.
Tufton said evidence in other jurisdictions outline that Animal Assisted Recovery and Care (AARC) programmes can be utilised to complement pharmacological interventions, which will lead to improved patient outcomes.
Paediatric patients must meet the patient inclusion criteria and consent of the parental or guardian must be obtained for them to participate in the pilot.
“The hospital has in place established infection, prevention and control protocols and the project will be implemented in keeping with these protocols. In the event that there is increased admissions of children, overcrowding and or an outbreak of a communicable disease, implementation will be suspended,” Tufton said.
He explained that the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA) will oversee the implementation of the project while a multi-sectoral Animal-Assisted Intervention (AAI) committee has been convened to provide technical coordination and support.
The minister said evaluations will be done at six-month intervals and if the pilot project is successful, a Cabinet submission will be made seeking approval for the development of an AARC programme in public health facilities islandwide.
Opposition spokesperson on health, Morais Guy, welcomed the project but expressed concerns about possible infections in the animals like rabies.
Tufton said the animals will undergo screening and every effort will be made to ensure the safety of patients and staff.
– Judana Murphy
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