Health officials are giving the assurance that health care associated infections and the risk of antimicrobial resistance in Barbados are under control.
This reassurance was given today as local and regional health representatives gathered in Barbados for the fifth Infectious Disease Week at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) office in Barbados.
Officials also reported several achievements in the area of infection prevention and control, as Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic called for a regional management system to be put in place to help hospitals and other health institutions in the Caribbean build capacity to adequately address issues relating to infections.
“I think that there are some areas of collaboration that now have to be taken to a higher level, and this is one. I believe we will be stronger as individual nations and as a region if we create response mechanisms to a number of things and areas, and this infection control is one of those areas,” said Bostic.
“We must develop a mechanism similar to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency and the Regional Security System that will be able to provide the regulatory framework to mobilize and deploy resources to each others’ country. By doing so we build capacity regionally and also domestically,” he said.
Consultant on Infectious Diseases and Head of Infection Prevention and Control Dr Corey Forde said while there have been a number of achievements over the years in decreasing the risk of antimicrobial resistance, there was still a lot of work to be done.
He singled out the surgical intensive care unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), saying the island has seen a reduction in cost as a result of better use of resources and antibiotics there.
“We expect later this year we will work with our surgical colleagues in the Urology unit,” said Forde, adding that there have also been ongoing training and upgrading of skills of nurses and doctors.
“We have a rigorous ongoing training programme. We believe training and developing within our department is crucial . . . We as a hospital must invest in our educational opportunities of our staff and I expect this to continue,” said Forde.
However, he said despite the successes there was still a lot of work to be done across the region”, and he called on ministers of health in the Caribbean to give greater policy support.
“We need to improve our employment screening challenges immediately. With haste we need to acquire equipment to improve our stewardship programme across the hospital. For example, if a patient is admitted to the hospital with an infection it can take sometimes up to 72 hours or more to receive an appropriate identity of organism causing infection, why wait? The rest of the world no longer waits,” he said.
“We have new, relatively inexpensive technology to identify these bugs within hours, and to identify the resistant patterns of these bugs so we can start anti-bodies correctly. It will improve our overall cost, it would improve morbidity and mortality in patients, and it will cause a massive impact in terms of dropping the anti-body use across our institutions across the Caribbean,” explained Forde.
He was unable to give statistics in relation to the number of infections detected and treated in Barbados or the region annually.
Acting Chief Executive Officer of the QEH Louise Bobb said there was a need for heightened awareness an the issue of infections in the region among healthcare professionals, patients and the wider population.
“As the QEH continues on its quest to becoming the leader and preferred provider of health care in the Caribbean region, infection prevention and control and reducing anti-microbial resistance remain a high priority,” she said.
“The threat of infectious diseases is ever present and it is critical that we continue to forge strong partnerships between health care professionals and institutions, policymakers, researchers and academic and community in order to overcome these challenges,” said Bobb.
She pointed out that “over half” of hospitalized patients end up getting an antibiotic “at some point”, but insisted that “the QEH will remain steadfast with commitment to reducing healthcare associated infections and antimicrobial resistance”.
Over the two days, participants will engage in discussions and come up with answers to lingering challenges relating to the risk of antimicrobial resistance and infection prevention and control.
Dr Jean Marie Rwangabwoba, interim PAHO/WHO representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, said one achievement for the region was the collection of more data on pathogens and antimicrobial resistance.
However, he said that data should be “translated into action”.
“We need to go beyond data collection and we need to analyze this information and gather decision makers on course of actions they need to take on our behalf to tackle this problem,” he said.