As the Trump administration tightens its grip on critical medical stock in the U.S, local officials are looking to China and other international suppliers for ventilators and other key equipment.
Executive Chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland made the observation while reacting to news that 20 ventilators donated to the people of Barbados had been barred from leaving the U.S.
“Yes, a number of U.S-based manufacturers have traditionally been our partners in the provision of ventilators. However, there are a lot of markets opening back up in China for example, in India and in other parts of the world,” said Bynoe-Sutherland on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)’s The People’s Business.
“We are becoming very adept at identifying way ahead of time where we can anticipate those issues. We also benefit from the fact that our Prime Minister and the augmented national task force focused very strategically on this and…has encouraged us not to try to resolve these problems on our own as mere procurement issues,” she added.
During a press conference on Sunday, Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic declared that the items had been seized. He later said the move was consistent with new export restrictions instituted by the U.S and stressed that the country was not suffering from a shortage of ventilators.
In recent days, a number of countries including Canada, Germany and France have also accused the Trump administration and American suppliers of diverting medical supplies in the hunt for ventilators and scarcely available protective equipment such as N95 respiratory face masks.
Hours after the Health Minister’s disclosure, the QEH Chair indicated that amid the international rush for supplies, health officials have set their sights on destinations other than the North American superpower.
On Friday, a 40-foot container from China arrived at the Bridgetown Port with 4500 goggles and over 16,000 face masks. The QEH Chair disclosed that another shipment from the Asian country could arrive by the middle of this week.
“We have another container due in on Wednesday with more surgical masks and gowns. So what we have been doing, not only in the case of ventilators, is ensuring that we have a steady supply.
“Unfortunately, unlike other items, ventilators have to be constructed, tested and manufactured. So I am not saying that it isn’t going to be a challenge, but we are going all out to identify those areas globally which allow us to access items despite what is happening in America,” said Bynoe-Sutherland.
On Sunday, officials revealed that three critically ill COVID-19 patients were on artificial respirators, commonly known as ventilators. The Government currently has 48 ventilators at its disposal and another 150 had reportedly been ordered and paid for from more than five different sources.
But Bynoe-Sutherland gave the assurance that Prime Minister Mottley and members of her cabinet have been working assiduously to remove any barriers that could “cripple” the efforts of local healthcare officials.
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