Taking leave of our health and senses
We are as competently ready as ever –– or as any other –– to deal with any challenges from Ebola. Or so our health and environmental powers that be would have us believe.
We have an Isolation Centre –– or an idea of it –– at the Enmore Complex at Collymore Rock in St Michael. And regardless of the cries of objection from parents of children attending three schools in its vicinity (The St Michael School, St Gabriel’s and St Ursula’s right on its doorstep), Enmore is where this facility is –– “temporary” as the authorities
say it will be.
And according to Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Tennyson Springer, the Ebola Isolation Centre is fully staffed –– with about 40 health workers –– and conclusively equipped to handle any case of the deadly virus.
And, Minister of Health John Boyce has also sought to assure us the facility has been appropriately designed (or should that be redesigned?) “in strict compliance with international standards” for infection control, air quality and waste management.
Words of comfort; but not beyond the stage of expression of generalities. Oh, that our Government spokesmen would be more specific when they seek to gain public confidence on critical matters –– of course, such as an Ebola Isolation Centre! Is this state of international standard, as boasted by Mr Springer, in consonance with the HAZMAT (hazardous materials and items) Mode?
Can Mr Springer and our Minister of Health assure us beyond a shadow of a doubt that the physical design of the Enmore building does conform to the accepted biohazard containment control criterion? Will they demonstrate to us –– Press and public alike –– that their selected Lower Collymore Rock building complies –– or can –– with the demands of segregated air conditioning systems, double-door, vacuum-sealed entrances and exits, separate staff and patient bathroom facilities, unencumbered waste management, uncompromised patient-personnel communications protocols, emergency electrical and water backup systems, and efficiently functioning supervisory stations for oversight?
Only overt confirmation of these requirements will possibly relieve the doubts of neighbouring residents and of parents whose charges must be schooled in the vicinity of Enmore. Thus the elimination of generalities –– or obfuscation –– about the present “design” of the Enmore building and a clearer picture of its infrastructural integrity as a protective buffer facility would go a long way in bringing peace of mind to the society at large.
Of course, any required effective containment of Ebola will depend much too on the coordinated efforts of Caribbean governments at their port of entries to prevent the virus from sneaking into the region in the first place –– a matter agreed upon by CARICOM leaders, in word at least, just this week, and which we wait with bated breath to see transformed into some practicality.
Dare we expect more?
Well, our Ministry of Health keeps pledging to do all it can to allay our fears about its preparedness and strategy for containment of the Ebola disease in Barbados –– this herculean task juxtaposed against the simple national duty of garbage collection that has gone awry in the last several weeks, leaving Barbadians and visitors at risk of infection by even other diseases like the dreaded leptospirosis.
Dare we rest confidently over our administration’s promise on the Ebola Isolation Centre, when it cannot get the picking up of our garbage nationally and daily back on stream? Dare we, when each morning and evening we must be confronted with overflowing piles of vermin-infested refuse, litter and dross?
. . . When our health authorities seem unrattled by the burgeoning garbage bedecking our highways and avenues?
And we wait seemingly in vain for specifics from Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe on the solutions to this untenable state of affairs and stink! How are Sanitation Service Authority workers allowed to idle daily? How are only 12 garbage trucks operational for an entire country?
How indeed can this kind of reasoning allay our Ebola doubts and fears?
We aver that cleanliness is undeniably next to godliness, and that at the very top of any list of articles and principles of national hygiene, sanitation and disease containment must be common sense!