The Barbados Defence Force (BDF) base at St Ann’s Fort, the Garrison could provide safe refuge for suspected victims of Ebola and other infectious diseases.
During a tour by health officials today, the Chief of Staff Colonel Alvin Quintyne said the BDF was prepared to put at the disposal of the Ministry of Health, a 30-bed facility within its base, for use in the event of a national emergency.
However, he pointed out that the matter was still under consideration.
“I cannot speak definitively at this time, because we have not engaged the Ministry of Health on this issue; so I would rather have some more indepth discussions to ensure that we would be able to provide the level and quality of support and care consistent with what is established at the national level,” he said.
He further pointed out that in the event of a national emergency where the Accident and Emergency Department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) was overwhelmed “and there was a requirement for that level of care . . . then we have some fall back capacity that the Ministry of Health can call upon”.
The military chief noted that since the establishment of the BDF’s medical facility, there had been a contingency for the female accommodation, which is located on the top floor, to be evacuated.
“So the females would have to find somewhere else to lay their heads. [And] if the Ministry of Health so desires, we can convert that accommodation to support whatever requirements the Ministry may have,” he said, adding that “we can have at least 30 bed spaces in the area normally occupied by the females”.
Minister Boyce also told Colonel Quintyne that the Ministry saw opportunities for cooperation with the BDF regarding medical care.
“Your facility at the Defence Force here at the Garrison demonstrates that we have in our grasp, opportunities for cooperation in medical care that we need to take charge of almost immediately,” the Health Minister said.
“We will continue to look for opportunities where the cooperation of the Ministry of Health can be strengthened and . . . where the overload or excess requirements at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital can be satisfied in some measure at your [BDF] facility,” he added.
While pointing to a “high prevalence” of Chikungunya in Barbados, Boyce said this morning’s tour give the Ministry a direct appreciation for the kind of capacity available at the BDF to deal with viral outbreaks.
“Of course it is no secret as we prepare Barbados for the hopeful unlikely event of an Ebola case, it is interesting that we are here [at BDF] this morning at this time to see what is available here at the Defence Force. Therefore, we will certainly look forward to discussions with yourself – Colonel Quintyne and your team – in respect of all areas of cooperation which we can take advantage of,” he added.
The Minister also thanked the BDF for constructing the isolation unit at the Enmore Health Centre, which has already been identified as a treatment facility for any Ebola or other victims of infectious diseases, should the need arise.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Joy St John said the Ministry was aware of the concerns expressed by parents of children attending the nearby school, as well as residents of the surrounding community who are very fearful of being infected.
“We are actively addressing these issues by speaking with the parties concerned,” Dr St John added.
However, in defence of the decision to locate the isolation unit near to the QEH, she said patients would need a high level of intensive care.
She also explained the difference between an isolation unit and a quarantine centre saying an isolation unit involved persons showing signs and symptoms or suspected cases without contact, while quarantine meant contact with no symptoms.
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