Minister of Health, Donville Inniss

Emergency medicine in the region is being forced to undergo change.

This was the central theme of the keynote address delivered today by Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, at the start of the Caribbean Emergency Medicine Congress, at Hilton Barbados.

Minister Inniss said: “This is a time of change for emergency medicine which is driven by increasing demand for care, nursing shortages, the rising cost of liability insurance, as well as the demand for safe, inexpensive, convenient and expeditious patient care. The constant threat of terrorism and other unforeseen circumstances are all challenges that require strong and effective leadership.” 

While acknowledging that the Caribbean region was not immune from these challenges, the Health Minister said: “With our limited financial resources and our commitment to the provision of free world-class health care there are immense challenges.”

International delegates also heard of the many challenges posed to emergency medicine in the region, as recent as 2007. Minister Inniss outlined that in April 2007, when the Caribbean hosted the Cricket World Cup, “there was no doubt that the host countries would have been challenged to respond to several scenarios resulting from mass gathering of people and coping with the influx of larger numbers of people from all over the world.”

He reminded his audience that Barbados responded to “a number of mass casualty events including a bus accident and an earthquake, and what is known to locals as the “Arch Cot Disaster” – a cave-in of dwelling houses”. He also disclosed that some 40,836 individuals were treated at the Accident and Emergency Department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital during 2007.

“This is indeed a large number of patients to see in a facility that has for years been short-changed in respect of medical, nursing and support staff, along with equipment and space constraints,” explained Mr. Inniss.

The Minister commended those persons working in the field of emergency medicine. He observed: “Our emergency management services were in full gear, especially with the threat of terrorism and diseases unknown to the region. The preventative measures implemented by the Governments with the support of the Pan American Health Organization and Caribbean Epidemiology Centre involved establishing a mechanism to expand the countries’ capacity to respond to public health crises such as a disease outbreak, coping with mass casualty events and providing critical clinical care.”

He pointed out that significant investment also went into providing appropriate infrastructure, including the upgrading of hospitals and facilities, and the provision of new ambulances, additional radiology and other medical equipment such as CT scan machines, MRI machines, along with equipping the Accident and Emergency Departments and select community clinics in the countries.

The aim of the Congress is to enhance and update the knowledge and competence of physicians in Emergency Medicine, such that it would translate to clinical practice, leading to better care.

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