Compass Point – Healthcare: Charitable organisations back up social services

A number of charitable and nonprofit organisations in the Cayman Islands work hard to raise awareness of and educate communities about prevention of some of the most prevalent diseases occurring here.  

These groups, often staffed entirely, or mainly, by volunteers also offer support services, advice, and diagnostic testing. Some even offer financial support to those unable to cover their medical costs, thus filling in where social services are unable to.  


Cayman Islands Diabetes Association 

The Cayman Islands Diabetes Association is a nonprofit organisation, and is an official member of The International Diabetes Federation. Their aim is to raise awareness of the dangers of diabetes and educate members of the community about the disease.  

Established in 1987, the association aims to address the increasing rate of diabetes in the Cayman Islands through education. The association has one HbA1c machine and is hoping to acquire another for Cayman Brac. These portable machines measure blood glucose levels on the spot and can identify individuals with diabetes or those who are at risk of developing it. The machines can print out the results, so patients may take these to their physician, saving them the cost of ordering the test.  

On 14 November, World Diabetes Day, the Cayman Islands Diabetes Association held the Diabetes Wellness Day at the Heliconia Room on Market Street in Camana Bay where free screening was given and a number of medical and nutrition experts gave informative talks on diabetes.  

The Cayman Islands Diabetes Association is made up entirely of volunteers. They recently held the Blues on the Rooftop fundraising event and received corporate donations, but more funding could carry additional work, said president Sylvia Perry.  


Cayman Heart Fund 

The Cayman Heart Fund was established in 2007 and has spent the past five years working to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the Cayman Islands.  

The majority of the Cayman Heart Fund’s work is in prevention and education, with free screenings offered in the various districts, and a big push to encourage healthier lifestyles in children. The annual War on Weight Challenge encourages members of the community to compete with one another to shed those extra pounds.  

Heart Smart Week, which takes place every March, is a medical symposium for which the Cayman Heart Fund brings in professionals from overseas to educate doctors, nurses and members of the local medical community, on developments and research in heart disease.  

Estimates are that 50 to 60 per cent of the Cayman Heart Fund’s funding comes from fundraising events, such as its annual gala. The remainder comes from individual and corporate donations. The group has one paid staff member plus a number of doctors and St. Matthew’s University medical students who give their time. Several non-medical community members also volunteer their time.  

Annual operating costs, including the one paid member’s salary, run at between $50,000 and $75,000. 


Cayman Islands Diabetes Charitable Trust 

The Cayman Islands Diabetes Charitable Trust works to support people suffering from diabetes and related conditions and provide diagnostic treatment. The trust was established less than a year ago and has five full time members of the Advisory Committee all of whom work on a voluntary basis. The focus of the trust’s work is on juvenile diabetes and improving the care available on Island. To this end the trust is in the process of installing a tele-clinic system at the Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital whereby patients will be able to talk with diabetes specialists on a system similar to video conferencing. This will give them access to the latest developments in the field and the chance to communicate directly with physicians who specialise in their condition.  

The CIDCT holds four fundraisers annually, all of which promote a healthy, active lifestyle but receive the majority of funding from private sector donations.  


The Cayman Aids Foundation 

The Cayman Aids Foundation offers educational talks to schools and businesses aimed at preventing the spread of AIDS. It has a small support group and offer some counselling services. Occasionally they may also lend financial support to patients. The nonprofit organisation receives some funding from the government and also organises roadside collections, although no fundraising events are planned.  


Cayman Hospice Care 

Cayman Hospice Care is dedicated to providing end of life care, free of charge, to everyone in the Cayman Islands living with cancer or other terminal diseases. A number of palliative nurses and caregivers visit patients in their homes, with the aim of making them as comfortable and pain-free as possible. A lunch club meets once per month giving patients an opportunity to get out of the house and socialise a little. A bereavement support group also offers ongoing care for those who have suffered a loss. Cayman Hospice Care was founded 12 years ago and although it has grown since then, it remains true to its original mission to offer free palliative care to all residents. On average, the hospice may be attending between 20 and 25 patients at a given time. The costs to the organisation however average around $1,700 per day so they rely heavily on donations from the public and private sectors. The government does provide a small amount of funding, for which they are grateful, but it covers only a fraction of its costs. Cayman Hospice Care has a salaried staff of eight (two full- and one part-time nurse, two full time caregivers, one medical director and two operations personnel) plus about 200 volunteers. A few volunteers are trained to care for patients, but the majority assist in fundraising, organising events each year.  



Cayman Islands Cancer Society 

The Cayman Islands Cancer society is a small, nonprofit organisation that works both to prevent cancer through education and also to provide support to those suffering from the disease. The organisation receives no government financing and depends solely on donations from individuals and corporations. Because it is independent and not affiliated to any organisation, the funds raised in Cayman stay in the Cayman Islands.  

The CICS has two full time and one part time staff member and is assisted by a significant number of volunteers.  

As well as giving presentations and holding health fairs to raise awareness of cancer, they provide vouchers for mammograms, pap tests and prostate exams, so that those who have no insurance or have insurance that does not cover preventative diagnostic testing can be tested.  

“This is an expensive program for us to provide but it saves lives, so it’s critically important,” said Jennifer Weber, operations manager.  

Those suffering from the disease may get practical and emotional support through the CICS. Patients may borrow library books on cancer, nutrition and related topics, and may also borrow or rent equipment, such as hospital beds and wheelchairs. The group also provides free counselling to patients, their families and their friends.  

CICS also is the exclusive retailer of prosthetic breasts and bras on Cayman for women who have had mastectomies. For those who cannot afford them these may be provided at no cost.  

Most importantly, the CICS provides direct financial assistance to help cover the costs of surgery, treatment, airfare and accommodation for cancer patients.  

In addition, CICS is partnering with HSA to support large-scale public health initiatives, including bringing the HPV cervical cancer prevention vaccine to Cayman; paying a full-time employee to create National Cancer Registry, which will generate cancer statistics for Cayman; and helping George Town Hospital create a new chemotherapy unit. 

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