Pet therapy programme to be rolled out at Bustamante Hospital | News

Children admitted to Bustamante Children’s Hospital will begin receiving animal-assisted treatment during the upcoming 18-month Christmas season.

The Minister for Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, said the pilot is a patient-centered intervention that complements healthcare delivery for pediatric patients in hospital who are undergoing procedures or who require a long-term hospital stay.

Dr. Teddy Parks introduced, the golden retriever will be the brand ambassador for the project and shared that the dog will be the main therapy animal.

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The golden retriever was sitting in the exhibit with Joy Brown, curator of the Hope Zoo.

Birds, rabbits and cats will also participate in the project and will be sourced from the Jamaican Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA), Hope Zoo or Montego Bay Animal Sanctuary.

Tufton said evidence in other jurisdictions shows that animal assisted recovery and care (AARC) programs can be used to complement pharmacological interventions, which will improve patient outcomes.

Pediatric patients must meet patient inclusion criteria and parental or guardian consent must be obtained to participate in the pilot program.

The hospital has established protocols for infection, prevention and control, and the project will be implemented in line with these protocols. “In the event of an increase in child admissions, overcrowding, or an outbreak of an infectious disease, implementation will be suspended,” Tufton said.

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He explained that the Southeast Regional Health Authority (SERHA) will oversee the implementation of the project while a multi-sector Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI) committee has been set up to provide technical coordination and support.

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The minister said the evaluations will be done at six-month intervals and if the pilot is successful, an application will be submitted to the Cabinet for approval to develop the AARC program in public health facilities across the island.

Opposition spokesman Maurice Gay welcomed the bill but expressed concerns about possible infections in animals such as rabies.

Tufton said the animals will be tested and every effort will be made to ensure the safety of patients and staff.

– Judanna Murphy

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