Minister of Health John Boyce has scoffed at the “silly reference” to a risk of possible outbreaks of cholera and other water-borne diseases in parishes, including St Joseph, St Andrew, St Peter, St Lucy and St Thomas, that had been facing severe water outages.
“I hear the silly reference to cholera –– and I pray to God that cholera does not visit this country. I want to disassociate myself completely with that thinking,” Boyce declared as he tackled the issue before Democratic Labour Party supporters attending the South Alive joint political meeting at Deighton Griffith Secondary School yesterday evening.
Not only did he rubbish the suggestion, he also made it clear that Barbados’ health care system was well equipped to respond to such challenges.
“Our health systems are so developed that even in the event of an emergence of what we now consider diseases of the past, we are able to manage them now. We have had many examples where the health services have had to respond to crisis after crisis in recent times.”
Concerns about cholera were raised by the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) earlier this month. BAMP president Dr Abdon DaSilva told Barbados TODAY at the time that the water outages may force affected residents to source water from ponds without treating it properly before use. He advised authorities to educate the public on how to purify water and how to store it safely.
Boyce argued that Barbados, along with international countries, was on the alert for re-emerging diseases. However, he stressed that the island had implemented thorough measures at the primary health care level to keep threats at bay, citing a rigourous vaccine programme which has put a stop to conditions, including rubella and measles.
He said Barbados and the region were now redoubling their efforts to stamp out chikungunya, dengue and Zika viruses transmitted by the Aedes-aegypti mosquito.
In this regard, Boyce revealed that regional talks were set for Jamaica next week to examine the development of adequate health systems for the region that would allow members states to spot outbreaks early and to minimize their effects.
“We have to have a regional policy arrangement for health which will see us capable of managing down all these incidents and making sure that our people are assured of the best health care possible.
“It is no point that Barbados or Guyana or Jamaica or St Vincent being safe and Montserrat being unhealthy, because when you go to Montserrat and come back we will bring back all the unhealthy things there,” he said.