Minister of Health, Donville Inniss (left) and Ministry officials on a recent tour of the St. Lucy District Hospital.

“Any new structures to be constructed for Barbados’ health care sector must meet the highest building standards.”

Minister of Health, Donville Inniss made this assertion today as he addressed the opening of the Lions and Leos Club of Barbados Health Fair, at Heroes’ Square in commemoration of World Health Day.

Using the example of the St. John Polyclinic, Minister Inniss said, “… the re-designed St. John Polyclinic is being prepared to withstand up to a category four hurricane and will be completed in such a way as to be operational in the event of most major catastrophes.”

The Minister further noted that health-care facilities in Barbados were ageing “in excess of 20 years and in the case of the QEH, built in the early 60’s.”

“Whilst we would credit the designers, engineers and builders of such times, we must ensure that such buildings are upgraded wherever possible to address some emergencies,” he said.

While adding that physical plants must be built and maintained “to survive challenging acts,” he said: “I am not satisfied that enough was invested in the maintenance of our healthcare facilities over the past ten years, especially in the areas of building and electrical works. This is indeed regrettable given the importance of such facilities to our lives.”

And, he noted that the Health Ministry had commenced a programme to ensure all facilities were equipped with shutters, back-up generators and batteries for vital equipment. He said: “Coupled with water storage facilities and adequate medical supplies, we should be adequately prepared on the facilities side for our known disasters. This principle must apply to all of our healthcare facilities.”

Those gathered at Heroes’ Square also heard that healthcare facilities, whether operational in times of emergencies or non-emergencies, were of little use to the society unless they had the “right skills available to operate within said facilities.”

“…As a nation, we have to continuously invest in, and retain our best human resource to adequately service these healthcare institutions. Our nurses, doctors, medical technicians and support crews are vital to the delivery of healthcare during and after emergency situations,” the Health Minister said.

He alluded to the fact that the Queen Elizabeth Hospital was seeking to employ additional key medical and administrative personnel to assist in the delivery of excellent healthcare to our citizens, especially when an emergency arises. “This has been augmented with additional and more relevant diagnostic equipment,” he said.

The theme for World Health Day is “Health Facilities in Emergencies;” in some territories slogan is “Save Lives: Make Hospitals Safe in Emergencies”

It highlights the fact that health centres and staff are critical life-lines for vulnerable people in disasters – treating injuries, preventing further illnesses and generally caring for people’s health needs. Additionally, it recognises that our society today has to grapple with myriad natural and man-made interventions which can quickly evolve into emergencies that may pose a severe strain on already heavily burdened health care facilities.

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