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Urgent Call to Action: Nephrologist Highlights Dialysis Dilemma

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German-born nephrologist, Dr. Walter Rohloff, emphasized the critical state of dialysis services during his testimony before the Senate Committee on Health, Hospitals, and Human Services this Wednesday. His comprehensive address shed light on the escalating challenge in the USVI, explored alternatives beyond the territory, and proposed a roadmap to enhance local treatment.

Dr. Rohloff shared alarming statistics – in the US, one in every 13 individuals of African descent is predicted to encounter end-stage kidney disease in their lifetime. “The situation is even more dire in the Caribbean, where the figure stands at one in 10,” he added.

He drew attention to the surging number of end-stage kidney disease patients, marking it as a grave concern. Over the past three decades, the count of individuals requiring dialysis in the territory has quadrupled from about 50 to over 200. Dr. Rohloff mentioned, “A total of 219 Virgin Islanders, residing on both St. Croix and St. Thomas, are currently dependent on dialysis services. Additionally, between 20 to 40 patients are off-island, unable to return due to inadequate outpatient dialysis facilities. While some have initiated home dialysis, the lack of this option locally hinders their transition back.”

Residents of St. John and Water Island face a bleak scenario with no dialysis facilities available, necessitating thrice-weekly commutes to St. Thomas for four-hour dialysis sessions, he elaborated.

Dr. Rohloff underlined the financial strain and personnel shortage plaguing dialysis centers, recounting a recent Senate resolution to allocate $72,000 bi-weekly to support Caribbean Kidney Center, a private dialysis provider. He cautioned that without a substantial transformation in the dialysis treatment landscape, such scenarios would recur, impacting both private and public providers.

To pivot away from this troubling trajectory, the lead at The Kidney Center on St. Thomas delineated a six-pronged strategy. This includes introducing new treatment alternatives like kidney disease mitigation programs or home dialysis; reducing the patient load through preventive outreach programs; enhancing patient survival and life quality via transplantation or home dialysis; bolstering service quality and stability through improved staff retention and training, financial stability, and emergency preparedness; and finally, achieving financial self-sufficiency to minimize reliance on governmental aid.

Home dialysis emerged as a focal point in Dr. Rohloff’s discourse. He highlighted its cost-effectiveness and lessened dependency on resources like staffing. Unlike in-center dialysis, home dialysis empowers patients with more control, requiring only monthly medical consultations, he explained. The modality can endure post-disaster scenarios, offering a vital lifeline in storm-hit regions.

However, the dearth of skilled personnel, partly due to brain drain, has hampered the successful implementation of home dialysis in the territory. Dr. Rohloff proposed aligning with prominent national kidney care entities to overcome this hurdle, thereby unlocking cost savings and consolidating essential services.

He also applauded the forthcoming Dialysis Clinic Inc-operated center in St. Croix, anticipating it would bridge many existing service gaps. Dr. Rohloff voiced his support for the VI Healthcare Foundation’s efforts in establishing the new clinic, encouraging legislative backing to overcome the final financial barrier.

The Senators, while intrigued, exhibited caution, particularly around the self-discipline required for home dialysis adherence. Senator Marise James questioned the patients’ ability to self-administer dialysis daily. Committee Chair Senator Ray Fonseca directed Dr. Rohloff to liaise with Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion for a thorough review and approval of his proposal before revisiting the Committee for further discussions.

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USVI Community Pulse

St. Croix Central High School Shifts to Online Learning Due to Severe Weather

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Following unexpected heavy rainfall that led to the premature closure of its campus on Monday, St. Croix Central High School has promptly adapted by moving to virtual learning for Tuesday, as announced by the V.I. Department of Education.

The decision came after students were released from school earlier than scheduled, a move necessitated by the rain’s significant impact on the infrastructure and daily operations of the school. This proactive transition to digital classrooms ensures that education remains uninterrupted, allowing students to connect with their educators via Teams during their usual school hours. Coursework and assignments will be managed and submitted using Teams alongside Schoology, ensuring a seamless continuation of the academic program.

The Department of Education is actively addressing the situation by conducting thorough cleaning and evaluations to make certain the school environment is secure and conducive for the return of its students and faculty. The goal is to welcome back the school community for in-person learning by Wednesday.

It’s important to note that this weather-induced adjustment is isolated to Central High School, with all other institutions within the district operating as per their standard schedule, unaffected by the recent climatic challenges.

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Unlocking $75 Million for Business Resilience: A Call to Action

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The Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority (VIHFA) has unveiled an extraordinary opportunity for local enterprises with the launch of its Commercial Hardening and Financing, alongside the Small Business Mitigation programs. These initiatives, bolstered by a generous $75 million from the Community Development Block Grant-Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) Action Plan, are specifically designed to fortify businesses against the adverse effects of natural and human-made disasters.

A sum of $40 million is earmarked for the Commercial Hardening and Financing Program, with an additional $35 million allocated for Small Business Mitigation efforts. These funds aim to minimize operational interruptions and enhance resilience among the business community in the face of unforeseen challenges.

Dayna Clendinen, the Interim Executive Director and Chief Disaster Recovery Officer at VIHFA, strongly advocates for prospective applicants to partake in the forthcoming workshops. These sessions are crucial, offering vital technical support and guidance throughout the application journey.

The schedule for these informative workshops is as follows:

  • St. Thomas: Monday, March 4, at 6 p.m., located at the UVI Innovation Center in the SBDC Training Room.
  • St. John: Tuesday, March 5, at 6 p.m., hosted at the Julius E. Sprauve School Cafeteria.
  • St. Croix: Friday, March 8, at 6 p.m., taking place at the Sunny Isle Shopping Center in the Elections Office.

In addition to in-person gatherings, VIHFA will host two online townhall meetings for broader accessibility. These virtual engagements are slated for Wednesday, February 28, and Wednesday, March 6, both commencing at 6:00 p.m. AST. Pre-registration for these events is mandatory, with details available through VIHFA’s provided links.

For those ready to seize this opportunity, applications for the CDBG-MIT Economic Resilience and Revitalization Program are accessible online. Whitney George, the Management Assistant, is available for inquiries or assistance regarding paper applications or the application process at (340) 772-4432 Ext:3248, or through email at [email protected] or [email protected].

The application deadline is set for April 5, 2024, at 11:59 PM. This timeline offers businesses a substantial window to apply for this pivotal funding, a step forward in ensuring their growth and sustainability amidst challenges.

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UVI Gears Up to Host David Roberts for Prestigious 13D Business Leadership Lecture

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The University of the Virgin Islands is setting the stage for the much-anticipated 2nd Annual 13D Business Leadership Lecture, which will be held at the UVI 13D Research and Strategy Innovation Center. The event, taking place on Monday, March 11, at 6 p.m., will spotlight David Roberts, a distinguished figure in the realms of singularity and innovation.

Renowned for his expertise in disruptive technology and exponential leadership, Roberts brings a wealth of knowledge from his tenure as a faculty member at Singularity University. His dedication to harnessing technological advancements for global betterment has made him a pivotal figure in shaping future leaders and innovators.

Dr. Pamela Moolenaar-Wirsiy, the Dean of Innovation and Student Success and Vice President of Institutional Advancement at UVI, shared her excitement for the lecture. “Hosting the second annual 13D Business Leadership Lecture underscores our commitment to fostering an environment of groundbreaking ideas and innovation,” she stated. The event is designed to spark revolutionary thinking and aligns perfectly with the visionary objectives of the 13D Innovation Center.

With a rich background that includes leadership roles in Singularity University’s Graduate Studies Program and an academic foundation from Harvard Business School and M.I.T., Roberts is uniquely positioned to guide discussions on artificial intelligence, bio-computer engineering, and the future of technology. His ventures have attracted significant investment from industry giants, including Kleiner Perkins and Vinod Khosla, highlighting his impact on the entrepreneurial landscape.

The lecture is open to the entire community, inviting local leaders, business professionals, and students to engage in a dialogue that promises to reshape perspectives and inspire innovative solutions for the challenges of tomorrow.

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