Barbados??? Ebola preparedness efforts have now been elevated to the highest level of Government under the National Security Council chaired by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.

Health Minister John Boyce made the disclosure in an address to the nation on CBC-TV yesterday evening, as he assured Barbadians that Government was doing all in its power to safeguard them from the disease.

He said that since August when preparations started, protocols had been put in place to address a number of critical issues including training, surveillance, screening, infection control, contact tracing and the handling of human remains.

Training aimed at raising awareness of the disease, its transmission and preventive strategies took place in August for health care workers and administrative staff in the Ministry of Health, as well as other Government agencies, the private sector and civil society.

Since then, more intensive training has been given to frontline workers, including doctors and nurses, to ensure that they are equipped with the knowledge and the skills to protect themselves and provide care in a safe manner. This training is ongoing, the Health Minister said.

Mr. Boyce assured the public that the Ministry had an ample supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and additional supplies were on order and expected in the island soon.

He also stressed that great attention was being paid to the ports of entry with protocols for the management of passengers agreed upon by Port Health Staff, Immigration and Customs Officers as part of the enhanced surveillance measures. In the event that there is an arriving passenger requiring observation, quarantine facilities are functional at both ports of entry, airport and seaport, and systems for surveillance in place.

The Minister revealed that the Emergency Ambulance Service also had an Ebola protocol in place, which included the private sector ambulance services. Training in the use of personal protective equipment, infection control and decontamination of the vehicles is ongoing and has been extended to the private sector, he added.

Mr. Boyce emphasised that an Isolation Centre was a critical aspect of the preparedness plan and the Centre located at Enmore, near the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, would be ready for use by November 1. The facility, he explained, had been designed in strict compliance with international standards for infection control, waste management and air quality.

He stressed that current information stated that the disease could only be transmitted by close contact with a patient or their bodily fluids and therefore, the Centre did not pose a risk to persons in the vicinity.

Mr. Boyce stated: ???Barbados has a sound public health care system with trained staff in infection control measures necessary to contain any cases of infectious diseases, such as Ebola. We are therefore confident that our health care system will be able to manage and contain the Ebola virus if the need arises.???

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