NASSAU –– Officials from the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization were in Grand Bahama yesterday to look at the safety protocols in place and to make recommendations to the Ebola Task Force.
Dr Roberta Andraghetti, regional advisor for PAHO/WHO, and Dr Gerry Eijkemans, representative for PAH/WHO for the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands, said they were impressed by what they saw at the hospital, port and airport.
The officials indicated that some of the protocols in Grand Bahama would be recommended as a model for other countries in the region. The tour, which started at the Rand Memorial Hospital, took in the Freeport Container Port and the Grand Bahama International Airport.
Minister for Grand Bahama Dr Michael Darville, Public Hospital Authority managing director Herbert Brown, Dr Frank Bartlett, head of the Ebola Task Force in Grand Bahama, hospital administrator Catherine Weech and Dr Paul Ward, medical chief of staff at Rand Memorial Hospital, were also present.
Darville reported that the officials had made some recommendations to the Ebola Task Force that would be incorporated in the protocols on Grand Bahama.
“I am pleased to report that we feel confident . . . and I want to assure residents of GB that in event we do have a case of Ebola, we have all the necessary protocols in place,” he said. “Some are still being developed, but we are confident we are able to handle any circumstance as it relates to Ebola, or any major infectious disease that comes to island of Grand Bahama.
“After touring the port and airport, I was quite satisfied that the protocols meet international standards. Of course, there are some additional recommendations that were brought to us, and under the leadership of Dr Bartlett and Dr Ward. We will go back and look at each recommendation and incorporate them in the protocol . . . to ensure that all the steps we are taking is for the safety of the community, to protect the tourism sector and the airport and port.”
Darville said he was pleased to hear that some of the protocols already in place would be recommended for adoption in countries elsewhere in the region. Bartlett said the exercise had allowed the Ebola Task Force to look at aspects of their plan and to discuss with PAHO and WHO officials their response plan in Grand Bahama.
“We look forward to making sure our Ebola response is the best response for Grand Bahama,” he said.
Ward said the Rand Memorial Hospital will continue to embark on an intensive health education programme for the public, hospital staff and healthcare providers on Grand Bahama.
“We want residents to feel assured that we are aggressively pursuing methods to ensure the safety of the public and all who live in the Bahamas,” he said.
Andraghetti said they would be visiting other countries in the region to see what kind of support is needed.
“What we are seeing in Grand Bahama we have good examples and lessons learned that we can try to adopt and export to our countries,” she said.
She said that exercise had provided an opportunity to strengthen the ability of the health system in Grand Bahama, and the Bahamas, to address other threats that are more common than Ebola.
Eijkemans stressed that while there was a small chance that Ebola would come to Grand Bahama, it was important to be ready in the event that it does.
“The Bahamas in on the right track to getting ready, particularly Grand Bahama, and I am impressed with what I have seen today,” she said.
She said the three countries where there were active transmissions were Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, all in West Africa.
“There will be a possibility of an eventual case turning up somewhere in the world –– it could be the US, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean. Therefore, it is important that we are prepared,” she said. “Of course, preparedness is always a work in progress. It is difficult to say that any country in the world is really prepared on all fronts, but what is important is that the right steps are being made, that there is reasonable preparedness and that we know where our gaps are and fill them.”
Eijkemans said PAHO/WHO was prepared to offer support in the event the Ebola reached the Bahamas, noting that there were stockpiles of personal protective equipment in Panama that could be immediately mobilized.
“It is really important that the Press is an active and positive responsible partner in working to bring out the message. There is no space for creating fear or playing on the fear of people –– that is very irresponsible and it happens in many countries around the world,” she added.