Minister of Health gives assurances in the face of Ebola threat
Authorities in Barbados say they have been taking the necessary precautions to ensure that the island remains Ebola free, as the deadly disease continues to spread internationally, already claiming over 4,500 lives.
Following is an official statement on Ebola preparedness issued by Minister of Health John Boyce.
My Fellow Barbadians, this evening I want to talk to you about the preparations that are being made by the Ministry of Health and our partners to make the health sector ready to respond in the event that a case of the Ebola virus reaches our shores.
As you are aware, on August 8, the World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak in countries in West Africa, to be a public health emergency of international concern. This declaration precipitated an intensive period of preparation to ensure that the necessary measures are in place to respond to this threat.
Barbados’ Ebola preparedness has been elevated to the highest level of Government and is being closely monitored by the National Security Council, which is chaired by the
Our preparations started in August with the development of an Ebola Procedure Manual that sets out protocols for training, surveillance, screening, infection control, contact tracing, the handling of human remains and other critical issues that must be addressed.
Large scale training and sensitization of our health care workers and administrative staff, as well as partners from other Government sectors, the private sector and civil society were also conducted in August. The aim of this exercise was to quickly raise awareness of Ebola Virus Disease, its transmission and preventive strategies.
Since that time, more intensive training has been undertaken with frontline workers, such as nurses and doctors to ensure that they are equipped with the knowledge and skills required to protect themselves and provide care in a safe manner. Such training is on-going to keep health care workers fully prepared.
As you have seen in the international media, the issue of the availability and use of personal protective equipment or PPE is of the utmost importance. The Ministry of Health has on hand an ample supply of PPE, with additional supplies on order and expected to be received very soon.
The Ministry is continuing to monitor the international situation and there is a coordinated response between the Ministry and personnel at the air and sea ports. Protocols for the management of passengers have been agreed by Port Health Staff and Immigration and Customs Officers, as part of the enhanced surveillance measures. Persons arriving from affected areas are referred to Port Health where a Public Health Nurse conducts screening and evaluates the need for further management.
In the event, that there is a passenger requiring observation, quarantine facilities at both ports of entry are functional and systems for surveillance by polyclinic staff are in place.
The Emergency Ambulance Service has developed an Ebola protocol which has also been discussed with private sector ambulance services, who have agreed to collaborate with the EAS, utilizing the same protocols and standards. Training in the use of personal protective equipment, infection control and the decontamination of the vehicles has already commenced and has been extended to the private sector.
The availability of a facility where an Ebola patient can receive care is one of the critical aspects of our preparedness plan. An isolation centre is a place where people who are ill with an infectious disease are separated from patients who are not ill. As such, a decision was taken to establish such a facility at Enmore, near to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The facility has been designed in strict compliance with international standards for infection control, waste management
and air quality.
The centre is nearing completion and is on stream to be ready and outfitted by November 1, 2014. Based on current information that the disease is only transmitted by close contact with a patient or their bodily fluids, the centre does not pose any risk to persons in the vicinity.
Planning meetings are ongoing in the QEH and polyclinics to ready these facilities to identify the major elements of preparedness and response that need to be addressed. It is also planned to conduct further simulation activities to test our systems and to identify gaps.
Meetings have been convened with funeral directors, management of the crematorium, and doctors normally assigned to the Royal Barbados Police Force to discuss issues related to the handling of human remains. It is intended, with the agreement of all concerned parties to cremate human remains of persons who die from Ebola.
Barbados has a sound public health care system with trained staff in infection control measures necessary to contain any cases of infectious diseases, such as Ebola. We are therefore confident that our health care system will be able to manage and contain any case of the Ebola virus disease, if the
The Ministry of Health monitors the Ebola situation locally, regionally and internationally, and will update the public regularly on this evolving situation. To this end, the Ministry of Health will establish a hotline to enhance communication with the public and will ensure that the public is given all relevant information about Ebola through our public
My fellow Barbadians, my Ministry is hard at work as we take the necessary steps to keep our country safe. The Ministry of Health will continue to consider your comments and concerns.
Members of the public are reminded that non-essential travel to the affected area should be postponed until the situation improves. However, if you travelled to Barbados from an affected area, monitor your health for 21 days. Call your doctor immediately if you develop symptoms. Tell the doctor about your recent travel and your symptoms before you go to the office or emergency room. Advance notice will help the doctor care for you and protect other people who may be in the office.
I urge you to give us your full support. Thank you.
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