The construction of a fully-equipped isolation unit is underway on the grounds of the Enmore Health Centre of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) as the Ministry of Health ramps up its four-prong action plan to keep the island Ebola free.
The unit, which should be operational by the end of the month, is being designed to handle all infectious diseases and, according to Minister of Health John Boyce, the move is part of a national programme to assure Barbadians the island has the infrastructure to respond to any incident that may arise.
“It’s no secret that from time to time there are cases of tuberculosis or we have to deal with other highly contagious diseases. The point I am making here is that the need for an isolation system is not anything new, it is something which has flared up from time to time but typically subsides when there is no rampant emergency,” he said today.
“In the past we have been dealing with some of these cases with specially equipped wards in the hospital, by the use of barrier nursing and the attending controls, but we feel the time is right for Barbados to establish a fully equipped isolation unit to deal with high contagious infectious diseases.”
The unit will consist of four beds.
Updating media managers on the island’s response to the Ebola virus, which has claimed 2,400 lives in West Africa, Boyce said the establishment of the isolation unit has been endorsed by the Cabinet and the necessary financing would be made available, although he did not provide a figure.
“This is being done in the normal run of the maintenance of the ministry. It is an existing building . . . so it is a cooperative arrangement where the Ministry of Health, the QEH, the [Barbados] Defence Force is there with us and we are building out that facility,” he said.
Last week, talks were held with the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners to secure support for the move which will be led by Dr Corey Forde from the QEH and the ministry’s Dr Karen Springer.
In addition to the unit, the authorities have also taken action to secure the nation’s ports by activating the quarantine units at the Grantley Adams International Airport and the Bridgetown Port.
“Both of these units are being brought up to a high level of response and to a much higher level of sophistication in the event that we have to handle an arriving case, “ Boyce said.
Acting chief medical officer Dr Kenneth George, who underscored that Barbados’ risk of having Ebola remains low, reported that other critical stakeholders have been trained and plans are being rolled out for a public education exercise.
He also stressed that a clear protocol outlining how travellers would be handled is in place, as he insisted that no visitor would be harassed.
“We are updating the list of countries with the immigration officers. When persons come from the endemic area there is a movement of persons from immigration to port health and there are very, very specific things that we are doing. It’s not only visiting the endemic areas, it is visiting the endemic areas plus the symptoms and signs of disease and then the other thing mass screening for persons with fever, etcetera,” Dr George said.
The ministry has also been conducting real time simulation exercises.
Ebola is a viral illness with symptoms including a sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain and sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea and, in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.
The current outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria is the worst since Ebola surfaced in 1976.
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