Residents of Martindale Road, St Michael are angry and demanding answers from the Ministry of Health over its decision to locate a unit to treat Ebola and other infectious diseases just a stone’s throw away from the district.
When a Barbados TODAY team visited the area, residents, some of whom appeared to be unaware that the unit was being placed on the grounds of the Enmore centre, expressed fear for themselves, their families, and students of the nearby Ursuline Convent School.
“I’m totally against it being right here. It’s next to two schools, residents are close [by]. There is also an outpatients’ clinic that people go to, and if there’s an actual [Ebola] infection the thing is going to wipe out so many people so quickly, especially the sick and the young.
“We need some sort of information before you decide, [like a] town hall meeting, unless the residents don’t seem important enough,” said Lynette Maloney.
Her mother, Betty, said she only learnt of the plan to house the unit in the area through the media.
She was upset about the treatment meted out to the residents, stating this was not the first time such disrespect had been shown.
“I don’t know if it’s because down here is not a development or certain people don’t live out here that we’re treated like this, but I think something should be done because a school is next door with small children and people live in the vicinity.
“[The authorities should have] come out and asked [us] something to get feedback,” she insisted, noting that the Ebola virus was contagious.
“If they wanted [to use] somewhere they should have used the old St Joseph Hospital [in St Peter]. Somewhere that doesn’t have a lot of residents.”
Mary-ann Paul, who has been residing there for a year, said she had no idea the facility was so close.
“The community here has got a lot of children so if it [Ebola] reached Barbados it will be easier for people out here to get sick because it’s right there. My view is that if you’re going to open a centre you should put it far [from people]. It’s too close to a populated area,” Paul stressed.
Several others also expressed a lack of confidence in the ability of the health authorities to cope with the virus if it reached Barbados.
One of them was Raycine, who has a young son.
Asked if she believed the country had the capacity to deal with Ebola, she responded, “no”.
“We are a very small country and if it was to happen [here] I believe a lot of us will die, almost half of us. I don’t feel that we could really handle it,” she said.
Another resident, Michelle Edmee, admitted, “I’m so scared . . . I does work for people who does go overseas and come back so if [it comes here] what [am] I going to do. I don’t need it here. I don’t want it to come to my country.”
While there are currently no meetings planned with the residents, the Ministry of Health, in response to public pressure on the issue, is due to meet with parents and guardians of students of The Ursuline Convent, which includes St Angela’s, St Ursula’s and St Francis.
During the meeting, scheduled for Thursday, health officials are expected to make a presentation and allow those present to voice their concerns about the location of the unit.
Contacted for a comment about the situation, president of Barbados National Council for Parent-Teacher Association Rhonda Blackman defended the move.
“I could assure that the Ministry of Health would have done a feasibility study to ensure that when they put the facility in the environment . . . that it would not have any health impact or [pose] any significant danger to the children, the school or the persons living in close proximity to it,” she told Barbados TODAY, ahead of the Ministry’s announcement of Thursday’s meeting.
Meantime, the four-room facility is almost complete and is expected to be handed over to the Ministry by Wednesday.
Officials close to the project said work was now concentrated on the inside of the building since electrical wiring and tiling had been completed.
So far, the World Health Organisation has reported some 4,033 confirmed or suspected deaths as a result of Ebola, with Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea being the three worst-affected countries.
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