A case is being made for this country’s “state-of-the-art” COVID-19 management facility at Harrison Point, St Lucy to be transformed into the headquarters for a regional training and response centre for highly infectious diseases.
Dr Corey Forde, who has been running the centre for the last 14 months, acknowledged that he is in no position to make policy prescriptions on the over 200-bed isolation facility. But the Infection Control Specialist believes Harrison Point has the potential to be put to good use, whether in health tourism, rehabilitation, or infection control.
While noting that many other countries will be faced with similar challenges of managing COVID-19 facilities after the pandemic, Dr Forde warned that the ongoing global disease outbreak would not be the only one of this kind.
“This is but one highly infectious disease that will be coming. You can count almost every other year there is something that comes up and there is almost always a scramble. There was Ebola and there was a scramble, there is now COVID and there was a scramble. There will be another disease… and there will be another scramble,” Dr Forde predicted.
“But Barbados has a unique opportunity now where we have skilled people who have been trained and highly trained… and now that we have this team together, I think it is important to have or develop a regional response to highly infectious disease to assist places like Trinidad and Guyana, so that if they run into trouble….I think we have the capacity to use [Harrison Point] as a training ground for that particular effort and I think that need not be lost.
“What we have gained from this outbreak is that we have built capacity within healthcare and we now need to know and understand how to utilise that capacity and in utilising that capacity, we can first build a national response team for highly infectious diseases. We can build a regional response team for highly infectious diseases and I think that is critically important,” the expert noted.
According to the isolation facilities director, the pandemic, like many other external shocks, has exposed the challenges of Caribbean countries attempting to tackle challenges individually.
“I believe quite strongly, that in the same way that we have a hurricane response team in the region, much as we have a response to volcanic issues, etc. across the region, there needs to be a regional response team for highly infectious disease,” Dr Forde declared.
“We do it for hurricanes, we can do it for infectious disease where we can drop some of these guys on the ground in some of these countries and put a system together, because I always say, if one Caribbean country goes down with a highly infectious disease, you can bet that the others will be faced with the same problem,” he added. ([email protected])