Minister of Health Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic has hinted that management of the ports will have to share the cost of the port health services.
Bostic’s ministry holds the responsibility to make sure that public health officers inspect ports as required by law and international convention in a bid to prevent the transmission of disease by people, animals and goods entering the country by land, air and sea.
But Lieutenant Colonel Bostic said he believes the management of the ports should take greater responsibility for providing the infrastructure to accommodate port health workers.
“I think for example, something like a quarantine area has to be the responsibility of the entities that are responsible for the ports of entry.
“And also transport; as transport assets to be able to get the officers to vessels or to aircraft, that has to be seen as the responsibility of the ports.
“I have actually started discussion with the respective ministers for the airport and seaport, and at some point in time we would have to have a meeting to be able to work out how we are going to operate going forward.”
The Minister was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a Port Health Seminar for Public Health Nurses and Doctors, at the Radisson Aquatica Resort.
He was unable to give figures, but noted that money spent on port health was incorporated into his ministry’s budget.
The health minister told reporters: “At the moment, the port health service is a bit ad hoc, in that you take nurses and environmental officers from polyclinics and you use them and obviously they rotate and they are actually still required to work within the polyclinic system.
“I think that the time has come, and given the vulnerability that we are exposed to as a small island developing state, that we need to establish a specialized port health entity that would be part of a national border security apparatus which ought to involve customs, immigration, and persons who work at our ports of entry. We need all of the eyes and the ears that we can get, to be able to provide proper surveillance.”
The seminar was hosted by the Ministry of Health and Wellness in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).
The aim was to build the capacity of primary health care medical staff through enhancing knowledge and skills of port health as well as fulfilling continuous professional development.
The seminar’s objectives included: enhancing port health knowledge, and skills of participants in preventing dangerous infectious diseases from entering at points of entry in Barbados, based on the implementation of International Health Regulations, and to sensitise participants on the importance of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and to re-emphasize the importance of port health surveillance.