Barbados’ Chief?? Medical Officer , Dr. Joy St. John, (centre) in discussion with PAHO’s Regional Health Systems and Services Advisor?? ,?? Gabriel Vivas, ICAO and CAPSCA Americas Regional Coordinator?? for the North America and Caribbean Regions, Jaime Calder??n ,?? and Technical Officer with the Civil Aviation Department, Mitchinson Beckles.??

Barbados’ Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Joy St. John, has warned that in today’s era of globalisation, economic trade, local and international travel, a public health crisis in any part of the world could affect populations everywhere.

To this end, she maintained "the spread of emerging infections is no longer just possible, but probable!"

Dr. St. John’s comments came this morning, as she addressed a Sensitisation Meeting, which is part of an Assistance Visit under the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) Cooperative Arrangement for the Prevention of Spread of Communicable Disease through Air Travel (CAPSCA) – Americas Programme, at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Citing the revised International Health Regulations IHR (2005) Dr. St.John noted that the World Health Organisation Director-General could declare any natural, accidental or deliberate event a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC),?? if it has the potential?? to affect?? health?? across national borders.

"This includes events of any origin, whether chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or other. Pandemic H1N1 Influenza was declared the first pandemic under IHR (2005) on April 25, 2009," she explained.

Against this backdrop, the CMO stressed that to comply with the revised regulations by the 2012 deadline, each country must achieve specific capabilities. She noted that, in Barbados, a National Focal Point [the CMO supported by several officers had been established in the Ministry of Health, to communicate with the WHO on a daily basis, reporting and responding to its queries.

"Barbados has also established tools and capacities to detect, assess and report potential PHEICs to national, regional and WHO focal points within 24 hours of identification. We have also developed and maintained core capacities to detect and respond to potential PHEICs within designated ports and we have also provided routine and emergency public health inspection and controls at designated points of entry," she added.

With regard to collaboration between countries, Dr. St. John pointed out that this was critical.

"Barbados has sought to share its public health experiences with CARICOM and other neighbouring countries. Historically, Barbados always tries to maintain a good rapport, to provide assistance, logistical support and financial resources through bilateral and multilateral channels in order to develop, strengthen and maintain CARICOM regional public health capacity.???? For a weakness in one is a weakness in all," she declared.

The Chief Medical Health Officer stressed that Barbados also expected the same from developed countries; to be apprised of the latest technologies and necessary tools that were tested during their own public health emergencies like SARS and the recently-concluded pandemic H1N1.

In an address delivered on her behalf by Technical Officer with the Civil Aviation Department, Permanent?? Secretary in the Ministry of International?? Business and International Transport, Gabrielle Springer, told the meeting the Ministry was very mindful of the constant threat caused by communicable disease, and was?? already?? collaborating with the Ministry of Health?? with a view to ensuring that our procedures included prudent management to mitigate against cholera, which is?? currently being experienced?? in a neighbouring Caribbean State.

"Barbados will continue to work closely with ICAO to ensure that our infrastructure is current and relevant, if we are to be effective when confronted by these ever changing challenges," the Permanent Secretary underlined.

Noting?? that?? Barbados?? established a quarantine facility with Standard Operating Procedures?? effective December 1, this year, Ms. Springer said all airport stakeholders?? including airlines, handling companies and health professionals were?? ultimately involved in the programme. "Legislation is being drafted, meetings are convened and seminars/workshops conducted aimed at educating and bringing awareness to stakeholders and making our programme effective," she assured.

In addressing the meeting, PAHO’s Regional Health Systems and Services Advisor, Dr. Gabriel Vivas, said Barbados, which joined CAPSCA – Americas in June of this year, was one of 23 member states, and the ninth to receive a CAPSCA Assistance Visit.

Stressing that the two-day visit was "not an audit or inspection," the WHO official indicated it was instead aimed at providing?? assistance?? for the Civil Aviation Department, the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders?? at the airport, including airlines, to validate and improve Public Health Emergency plans?? and preparedness within the aviation sector.

He announced that coming out of the visit , which included the sensitisation meeting and a tour of?? select facilities at the Grantley Adams International Airport, including the new quarantine facility,?? a confidential report?? would be sent to the Civil Aviation Department based on the team’s observations, evaluation and recommendations. Dr. Vivas stressed that advice and training would also be provided for the requisite personnel.

In addressing the meeting, ICAO and CAPSCA Americas Regional Coordinator for the North America and Caribbean Regions, Jaime Calder??n, noted that in 2005, PAHO/WHO facilitated an assessment of the points of entry in Barbados, Bahamas, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Kitts/Nevis and Trinidad, which provided the framework for the development of port health guidelines to assist countries to meet the core capacities required to fully implement the IHR (2005).

Mr. Calder??n stressed that the major challenge for all member countries at present is the review of the multi-sectoral legislations, regulations and other instruments to ensure efficient IHR implementation.??cgaskin@barbados.gov.bb

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