Doctors say some young children need psychological services too

Psychology services have a vital role to play in the developmental progress of children after they leave the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

“Psychology services are [an] important part of looking after children. The clinic which you are in now is part of the outpatient clinic, which is a speciality clinic for graduates of our new premature intensive care programme,” Dr Clyde Cave said.

“Premature babies have special needs, developmental needs and one of the things we do is to check not only on how they are growing physically but how they are developing psychologically and how they are ready to learn.”

Dr Cave made the comments on Wednesday at a presentation of books and equipment to the Paediatric Outpatient Department by Project Manager of the Sandy Lane Charitable Trust Jacqui Cuke.

The consultant paediatrician said some of the children have extra challenges which, if detected early, can be addressed by a psychologist.

“Sometimes there are extra challenges which if we detect early we can make a major difference in their school life. Part of that would be a routine psychological evaluation when they are about four and a half years old,” he said.

While noting that there is a psychologist attached to the hospital, he highlighted that the person only works part-time attending to both the special programme as well as all psychological needs of children and therefore all the needs of the children who required assistance were not met.

“Psychology is not just emotional psychology, it has to do with readiness to learn and develop,” he said.

In relation to the birthrate of premature babies, Dr Cave pointed out that it was about ten percent “if one followed the ballpark percentile”.

He said in recent times more premature babies are surviving and persons were taking that for granted.

“I think people have become a little spoiled, we have premature babies surviving now [more than] they [had before] and people take it for granted. Once they come out of the NICU all will be well but what we are finding out is that they continue to have problems.”

Child Psychologist Dr Kathy Herbert who started her tenure at the QEH six months ago said that so far, she had seen about 150 patients which was a demanding volume.

“We run only one-day a week, so that is a significant volume. A difficult day I may see ten to 12 families. As Dr Cave alluded to, most of the babies who are discharged from the [NICU] are followed here to this outpatient clinic to be seen by me,” she said.

Herbert was thankful for the donation from Sandy Lane Charitable Trust as she said it would now allow her to screen babies from the tender age of two and a half years old. (LG)

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