The upcoming Women and Children’s Caribbean Conference at Gov. Juan F. Luis Medical Center will not only focus on training in obstetrics, gynecology, and pediatrics but is expected to help raise funds for the cash-strapped facility.
“It’s no secret that JFL is facing tough financial challenges,” said Kye Walker, chairperson of the hospital’s board of directors.
She said the closure of Hovensa will result in fewer insured patients seeking care at the hospital, costing JFL as much as $13 million in the next fiscal year alone. On top of that, she said, the hospital’s allotment from the government continues to be reduced every year.
“What that means is that the allotment is directed to the operation of the hospital. The territory and the hospital cannot afford to come up with funds for capital projects. That’s where the fundraising comes into play,” she said.
The conference from Oct. 4 to 7 will feature two days of lectures followed by a pair of fundraising events, a fashion show and a concert by South African platinum-recording artist Lira.
The conference is geared towards doctors, nurses and medical students while the fundraising events are open to the public.
Money raised at the events will go towards installing a mammography machine at the hospital and purchasing a central fetal monitoring system for the labor and delivery wing.
Joining a Friday press conference by phone, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Nelson said the topic for the conference was inspired by feedback hospital executives received at a series of community forums.
“We asked the question, what do you expect from your hospital?” he said. “As decision-makers in families, women wanted to make sure their children were taken care of.”
From the forums, the hospital identified five “service lines,” areas of care to focus upon. They included OB/GYN and pediatric services, operating room, emergency room, the hemodialysis suite, and the Virgin Islands Cardiac Center.
Chief of Communications Xaulanda Simmonds-Emmanuel added that the hospital hopes to host two or three conferences a year focusing on and raising funds for these five areas.
“This conference is really about demonstrating how we are listening to the community, responding to the community and providing real leaders in the service line,” Nelson concluded.
Also calling into the press conference was Dr. Linda Bradley of the renowned Cleveland Clinic, a gynecological surgeon who will serve as the conference’s keynote speaker. She said the topic of her lecture will be uterine fibroids, a condition for which women in the V.I. are at high risk, she said.
“About 80 percent of women of color have fibroids and the quality of their lives can often be compromised by infertility, pelvic pain, heavy menstrual cycles, and discomfort with their menstrual cycles,” she said.
She added that in the past the typical treatment for the disorder was a hysterectomy, but she would share new surgical techniques that would not render the patient infertile.
Other topics to be discussed at the conference include the impact of Caribbean nutrition and lifestyle on women and children, diabetes in pregnancy, and intrauterine drug exposure.
Simmonds-Emmanuel said the conference has been publicized in the New York, Washington, Fort Lauderdale, and Texas markets and that they expect several providers from the mainland to attend. The hope is for 100 total attendees, though they did not yet have a final count.
The fashion show fundraiser will be held at the Caribbean Community Theatre on Friday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. It will feature designs by Eva Varro, Julian Chang and others.
The Lira concert will be held at the Island Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 6 at 8 p.m.
Ticket prices start at $25 for the concert and $40 for the fashion show, and both can be purchased at Undercover Bookstore, Essentric Boutique, the JFL gift shop or online at www.caribbeanfamilyhealth.org.