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High alert

Barbados and its regional neighbours step up Ebola response

The controversial isolation unit at Enmore is now ready to accept patients, but it will deal with Ebola cases only.

The Ministry of Health made the announcement this afternoon as Acting Minister of Health Donville Inniss disclosed that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) was helping Barbados to finalize its action plan for the deadly virus. At the same time, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart was preparing to meet in Trinidad and Tobago with his Caribbean Community (CARICOM) counterparts on a regional Ebola response.

In a statement issued via the Barbados Government Information Service, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Tennyson Springer said a dedicated staff of about 40 people from the Ministry, as well as other agencies, was in place.

The Enmore facility, located on Collymore Rock St Michael, had initially been identified as an infectious disease isolation unit. However, Springer said a decision had since been taken that no one with infectious, airborne illnesses would be treated there.

The move comes on the heels of concerns from parents of students attending the next-door Ursuline Convent School about the possible health threat.

They had called for the unit to be relocated to a remote area.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Tennyson Springer

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Tennyson Springer

However, Springer said based on information received from technocrats “it would not be advisable to locate such an intensive care unit in a remote location”.

He added that the Ministry sought to address all the concerns raised by the public and would continue to review its options for the long-term.

“ . . . This would include a re-look at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and where an isolation unit could be placed within a reorganized hospital facility,” the statement said.

The decision not to treat infectious cases at Enmore has not pacified a group lobbying for the unit’s relocation.

Today, several parents posted their dissatisfaction on the Move the Isolation Unit at Enmore, Barbados Facebook page, saying the decision offered no comfort.

“Whether or not it will be used for Ebola only it should still be moved,” one wrote.

“Are we really buying this?” another asked.

One parent wrote sarcastically: “That makes me feel so much better now I could just sit back and relax. Just one deadly disease next door to my child instead of a plethora of different ones.

“It’s also ‘temporary’, not the long-term solution. Once again ‘whew!’ Too bad Ebola isn’t ‘temporarily’ infectious and doesn’t ‘temporarily’ kill you.”

A plan of action for dealing with Ebola, Minister Inniss disclosed today, was being finalized with the assistance of PAHO.

He said the Ministry had been developing protocols to prepare for and respond to the disease that has claimed thousands of lives in West Africa.

So far Barbados has not reported any cases of Ebola, but Inniss said, “the Ministry . . . is pleased to be a part of the intersectoral committee, which is comprised of representatives from all of the key services, which would be required to respond to an outbreak scenario”.

“This committee has been working to develop a plan of action which will guide the country’s response in the event of an importation of a case of Ebola. In this effort, we will benefit from the technical assistance of PAHO, including advisors from the Washington office who will be assisting in an analysis of our plan and an evaluation of protocols and our state of readiness in core health, infection control, clinical management, surveillance, laboratory and intersectoral coordination for emergencies and disasters.”

Inniss added that the private sector was assisting in the development of the protocols.

“This will ensure that all sectors and agencies have developed plans and are prepared to respond when and if required to do so,” he explained.

Inniss made the disclosures as he addressed the opening of a regional emergency risk communication workshop for Caribbean countries at the Crane Resort today.

The three-day workshop came as CARICOM leaders attended an urgent meeting in Port-of-Spain to discuss challenging health issues, including Ebola and the mosquito-borne Chikungunya, a mostly non-fatal but debilitating illness that is affecting communities all across the region.

Host Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (centre) makes  a point at today’s special summit, as other officials listen in.

Host Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (centre) makes a point at today’s special summit, as other officials listen in.

The meeting got underway this afternoon with CARICOM Chairman Gaston Browne, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, and Secretary General Irwin LaRocque calling  for harmonised positions to shield the region from Ebola.

In her remarks, host Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar pointed out that although individual member states had taken steps to stave off the virus, the region could “do much better together” and needed to identify strategic measures.


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5 Responses to High alert

  1. Tunde Layne
    Tunde Layne November 5, 2014 at 2:22 am


  2. Lise Hansen
    Lise Hansen November 5, 2014 at 5:22 am

    why only for Ebola? There are other extremely infectious diseases….. and the patients should be treated in a similar way …..

  3. Sarah Pomeranz Layne
    Sarah Pomeranz Layne November 5, 2014 at 5:26 am

    Lisa. . The facility shouldn’t be where it is in the first place.. the ministry is just trying to appease the community involved by saying it will only be used for this one thing..I think it needs to be shut down.. full stop

  4. PJ White
    PJ White November 5, 2014 at 5:43 am

    One hand has no idea what the other is doing. One set of officials said it will treat all infectious diseases now a next says Ebola only. Smh….no wonder we in the current state we in!

  5. Wayne P Hoyte
    Wayne P Hoyte November 5, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    it really seems like we want an ebola case to brag about …. smfh. the facility dont need patients.


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