With pressure mounting on the Freundel Stuart administration to halt its plans for the establishment of a disease treatment unit near the Ursuline Convent School on Collymore Rock, St Michael, the Barbados Defence Force (BDF) today ruled out the possibility that its medical centre could used as an alternative.
This follows last week’s tour of the facility by a team from the Ministry of Health, headed Minister John Boyce.
Over the weekend, the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) also issued a statement in which it listed the BDF Headquarters at St Ann’s Fort, The Garrison as one of three sites the doctors deemed to be more suitable than the current Enmore Centre location.
However, speaking on behalf of his chief of staff Colonel Alvin Quintyne, another top official of the BDF told Barbados TODAY while the medical centre could be used in a mass causualty situation, it did not meet the required international standards, as specified by the World Health Organisation, for either isolation or quarantine of infectious disease victims.
Lietenant Colonel Glyne Grannum also said concern had been expressed about the threat such an isolation centre could pose to soldiers at the Defence Force base.
BAMP had also suggested the former St Joseph Hospital in St Peter; or a hospital ship as the other alternatives.
In a statement this weekend, it also sought to clear the air on where it stood on the proposed location on Collymore Rock.
President Dr Carlos Chase pointed out that as far back as early September during a meeting with Minister Boyce, the BAMP council had expressed concern about locating the centre close to the school.
Chase said the council had also informed the minister of its reservations in having the unit centrally located in a densely populated area and “having easy access to the public”.
Chase said the Ministry of Health had initially rejected a number of recommendations it had made regarding the operation of the facility.
“Concern was expressed about the plan to have blood transported across the street to the QEH lab. BAMP recommended that on-site processing of essential blood be done, since one did not want to be transporting highly infectious materials across the street in public and then processing in the QEH lab to expose staff and contaminate equipment.” This, Chase said, was rejected by officials saying that was not their protocol from PAHO.
“Further, BAMP suggested that persons be decontaminated and washed down prior to removal of the PPE (special protective suits). This was rejected saying that was the protocol that was established by the experts for the donning and removal of the PPE.”
The medical doctors organisation has also recommended that dedicated team was necessary to manage the isolation unit. “[We] cannot have four different teams going to the unit and then returning to manage patients at the QEH,” Chase pointed out.
BAMP had also urged Government to ban travellers from Ebola-affected African countries.
But so far the ministry has not instituted a ban. Instead, it has recommended that residents do not go to West Africa unless absolutely necessary, until the current Ebola outbreak was brought under control.
When contacted today, the Minister of Health said he could not say too much on the matter at this stage. However, he said he would come to the public shortly with a statement.
“This matter is a very serious matter. I am dealing with it. We are forging ahead with the preparation of Barbados in the event we have to deal with this matter [Ebola]. It is not a simple task. It is changing almost daily. When my team is ready they will prepare a document which I will share with the media. That will be very shortly,” he added.
In the meantime, the parents of the more than 600 children, who attend the Ursuline Convent School, have intensified their opposition to the establishment of the centre next door to the learning institution.
The Parent Teacher Association has launched a formal petition, which is to be presented to Prime Minister Stuart as head of the Cabinet.
Administrator of the school Susan Chennery informed this paper this afternoon that the petition was seeking to determine how many people across the island agreed with their concerns about the possible health hazards the centre could pose “so that we could let the decision makers know”.
Chennery said copies of the petition, which were emailed out this morning, should be in the hands of all the parents by this afternoon.
“We will send out copies and parents can print them and help gather signatures; and then we will have stations here at the school where people can sign individually.”
Asked what the petition said, the school administrator replied: “Basically, do you agree that it [isolation centre] should be relocated?” She said the intention is for persons to indicate “yes” or “no”.
“At the end of the day we will see what happens. We will submit the information to the decision makers and we hope that there will be appropriate action.
[We will submit it to] the Prime Minister so that it goes to Cabinet because Cabinet would have been the decision making body, and a copy should go the Minister of Health as well,” she added.
The students who attend the school range between ages three and 17.
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