Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, speaking with Consultant Gerontologist at the Geriatric Hospital, Dr. Ambrose Ramsay, at the workshop.
(A. Miller/BGIS)

All sectors of the society have been urged by the island’s Health Minister, Donville Inniss to "come on board" and assist in preventing a possible cholera outbreak in Barbados.

This appeal followed a successful two-day Cholera Preparedness Workshop that focused on planning for and mitigating the impact of cholera on the island.

Addressing the closing of session of the workshop, that was held in conjunction with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Minister Inniss pointed to the need to "be more vigilant while implementing measures to remain cholera free".

He observed: "Cholera can impact negatively on all Barbadians, and therefore all stakeholders – government, private sector, civil society, community and individuals, must come on board to assist."

Against a backdrop of initiatives on the part of Government, the Health Minister outlined the level of participation required of these actors. He stated that at the governmental level, a national committee comprising multi-sectoral actors would be set up within the Department of Emergency Management’s (DEM) legal and functional framework, and that individual stakeholder committees would formulate plans to feed into the national plan.??

As he expressed satisfaction that individual departments within his own Ministry had either started or completed cholera plans, the Health Minister noted that DEM would be requested to work with Health in staging a national simulation.

"And," he added: "we, also at the governmental level, will encourage communication with the internal public of each organisation, as well as the identification and ear-marking of suitable facilities, preferably one in the north and one in the south, for longer term management of isolated cases.?? Lastly, at the national level [we would seek] to ensure there are adequate supplies for cholera-specific commodities."

It was further explained that at the community level members of an organisation would be expected to know their role and that there would be the

strengthening of inter-sectoral links and communication to foster effective collaboration and joint response in the event of a cholera epidemic.

The private sector health professionals would also be assisted with maintaining up communication links with the Epidemiology Unit of the Ministry of Health as soon as there was an index of suspicion.

Outlining the expectations of his Ministry with respect to individuals, Mr. Inniss said, "The Ministry of Health will continue to give the general public information and guidelines about what to do on an individual and family basis if illness strikes; the Ministry will also keep the public informed on how the health services will respond if there is an epidemic."

The workshop, which was planned by the Medical Officers of Health from the eight polyclinics, exposed participants to the effects of cholera, the importance of early detection and confirmation of cases.?? It also addressed ways of detecting early importation; minimising risk of importation and reducing and containing the spread of the disease in the country.

In commending participants and facilitators, Health Minister Inniss said the seminar was "a strong signal of enduring commitment to improving health programmes and other national sectors’ capacities that would be needed on a day-to-day basis, during a cholera emergency".

He stressed: "This workshop also reminded us of the power of public health, and of partnerships, to prevent, treat, and cure diseases. The seminar also reinforces a reality we know very well. The power of public health and all our best interventions are blunted when health systems are weak.

"It must be noted that the strength of a country’s health system will make the biggest difference in managing illness and bringing normalcy to our citizens’ lives during such a serious epidemic."


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