The dream of the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) rebuilding its paediatric department, which was erected as a temporary structure 62 years ago, will move closer to materialising with a portion of the $75 million expected to be earned from the 2023 Sagicor Sigma Corporate Run.

The UHWI Paediatric Department is one of two beneficiaries of this year’s event dubbed “Sigma Legacy Run”. The other recipient is Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts which has plans to use the funds to build a new painting studio as the previous structure was gutted by fire.

Paediatrician Dr Roxanne Melbourne-Chambers says the paediatric department is grateful to have been selected as a beneficiary, noting that after many decades of the unit being a provisional structure, it is “well past time that we need to look at improving our physical structure”.

“We are not pleased about our physical facility…Although we offer optimal care and we train… it is quite a bit of a stretch when a family comes to the institution and physical facilities are nowhere near where they should be,” she said at the Jamaica Observer Press Club on Thursday.

Dr Melbourne-Chambers noted that the facility, which caters to children from infancy up to age 16, requires suitable facilities in place to accommodate them, especially for extended periods.

“There are kids who are admitted from the Caribbean, from rural Jamaica — for cancer therapy or kidney disease — and they spend six weeks, three months at that place and it ought to be a space that is wonderful for healing for the child,” she said.

The facility, the doctor said, currently houses two medical wards, each with 20 beds and two side rooms; and a surgical ward which has 20 beds and two side rooms. She noted that during the height of the novel coronavirus pandemic, an isolation unit was established in the already cramped space. The unit also caters to children with mental health issues.

Noting that providing care is more than medication and equipment, she said the department is in need of suitable accommodation for patients and their families who may spend weeks/months at their bedsides, and appropriate facilities for staff, particularly nurses, who sometimes work eight/12-hour shifts.

There is also need for a proper isolation unit, not just for COVID-19 patients but for children who are on heavy chemotherapy drugs and are prone to infections and need to be protected.

Dr Melbourne-Chambers said that while it is understood that the money that will come from the run “is but a drop in the bucket”, the hope is that it will provide seed funding for the proposed structure “and with exposure from Sigma, we will be able to engage other entities that will catch this vision for us to erect a new paediatric building over the next few years”.

“I know people who donate like to see their money spent within [a specific] time and have something to show for it, but I am hoping Sigma will understand that this is important to seed a project that is well overdue,” she said.

Dorrett R Campbell, interim principal, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, also expressed gratitude at the school being chosen as a beneficiary of the Sagicor Group’s fund-raising event, noting that it will assist the school in its quest to be “a force to be reckoned with” in the global creative space.

She noted that this ambition has been somewhat dampened as the college has not been able to accommodate a full slate of students at the visual arts school due to fire damage.

“Currently, we have 215 students in that school and 23 students in painting which used to be one of our heavily subscribed options, but without the painting studio we have not managed to attract a higher number of students,” she said.

She noted that in October 2021, the Hope Brooks painting studio was gutted by fire and the school has been trying to raise funds to “rebuild back better”. An assessment of the damage suggests it would cost nearly $50 million to rebuild a state-of-the-art facility.

“We have sought help from Sagicor, who is our service carrier for health insurance for both our students and staff, and they have kindly consented to make us one of the beneficiaries of the Sigma Legacy Run,” she said.

“We are eternally grateful for the partnership and happy that Sagicor understands the critical importance of the arts and has become a defender of the arts. We have committed to doing all that lies within our remit to maximise the number of registrants in this year’s run,” she said, noting that all current students, past students, faculty, other staff and friends of the college have been mobilised to run for the cause.

The 2023 Sagicor Sigma Corporate Run is celebrating its 25th anniversary and will feature the commemorative events of a Legacy Dinner and Awards Ceremony on Thursday, February 9 and a Sigma Soca Fete on Friday, February 10. The walk/run road race is scheduled for February 12.

The Corporate Run is the largest road race in the Caribbean and has raised more than $550 million in donations for several beneficiaries, with a focus on health, child-related and educational initiatives since inception in 1999.

To register for the event people are asked to visit the Sigma Run website at; or contact the Sagicor Sigma Secretariat at 876-936-7980-2. Registration closes on January 27.

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