Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Kenneth George, has cautioned Barbadians that as they prepare for this year’s hurricane season that they must do so in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and should take extra precautions not to spread the virus.
Speaking during the Department of Emergency Management’s 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season press conference at its Warrens, St. Michael headquarters today, Dr. George reminded the public that predictions are pointing to a “very active season” and they must be on the alert.
He added: “We have to take our responsibilities with respect to health care to ensure that during any natural disaster that COVID is not spread, and that we take care and save lives and limbs of persons who may be affected.”
The CMO shared that the Ministry had already activated its hurricane preparedness plans and had responsibilities for two committees – an internal committee and a Health Services Standing Committee, which he chairs.
He disclosed that the Health Services Standing Committee had commenced its work and recently met with critical agencies, such as the Barbados Water Authority, the Barbados Defence Force, and the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade, to “get a better understanding of what are the allied health sectors that caucus with health during the time of a hurricane or a natural disaster”.
Additionally, Dr. George said the Ministry of Health and Wellness has significant responsibility to ensure that its physical plants and operations are understood by all involved.
The CMO stated: “The Queen Elizabeth Hospital…, the Geriatric Hospitals, the Psychiatric Hospital and also our polyclinics, they have all commenced their work with respect to their disaster preparedness plans. They have been asked to make sure that every officer from the head of the organisation to the persons who work in the organisation, understand their role and function during a natural disaster.”
Dr. George continued: “As I said, this is a difficult time for us because we are undergoing a COVID pandemic. Fortunately, within the last two to three days, our positivity rate has been trending downwards even further, which we are very, very happy about, but it is not a time to become complacent.”
The CMO urged Barbadians to understand what they can do at a personal level to keep their families and household safe; know where the nearest hurricane shelters are, so that in the event of a hurricane or storm they can ride it out safely, and to ensure that all equipment and supplies are up to date, and in preparation for the season.
Dr. George said the Ministry of Health is here to “hold your hands” and to try to assist wherever possible. “As I said, we are steps ahead in our game. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital now has a 50,000-gallon tank, which is new and is in commission and that can serve for several days after a hurricane strikes. Our generating capacity in our polyclinics is up to par; our water storage capacities have been reviewed and they are satisfactory. So, therefore, we will continue to work with all sectors to make sure that when called upon, the Ministry of Health can and respond in a timely manner.”