Minister of Home Affairs, Edmund Hinkson, has expressed confidence in the policies and protocols adopted by the Barbados Prison Service to protect inmates and staff against the COVID-19 pandemic.
And, he is giving the public the assurance that the protocols and guidelines established by health policymakers will be “strictly complied with and applied in terms of contact tracing and isolation in the event of any discovery of COVID-19 affecting any prisoner or prison officer”.
The Minister issued this statement in response to comments from the PDP, which expressed the view that the screening protocol at the Barbados Prison Service was not enough and that all persons who were recently remanded should be subjected to testing.
“The Barbados Prison Service has in place a health protocol developed in concert with the Ministry of Health and Wellness. This protocol is enhanced during every national influenza outbreak. Hence, management initiated and activated its response protocol to COVID-19 in early February. Any suspected cases of flu-like symptoms are assessed and evaluated by medically trained personnel,” Mr. Hinkson said.
The Minister outlined that under the protocols, all prison officers, from the Superintendent right down, are temperature tested and hand sanitized on entry through the Prison gates.
Thereafter, any officer entering any unit housing, be it a remand unit or one for convicted prisoners, is again tested and hand sanitized.
In addition, all prisoners, both male and female, now entering the prison for the first time are interviewed and questioned as to their present health status, screened and tested for temperature.
“They are then placed in an isolated area, separate and apart from those who are already incarcerated. They are thereafter periodically tested by public health personnel for the next 14 days before being allowed entry to the general prison quarters,” Mr. Hinkson pointed out.
He added that under the established protocols, any prisoner suspected of flu or any similar illness is isolated in the Prisons’ Medical Unit, and the Senior Medical Health Officer at the St. Philip Polyclinic is informed.
He added that any prisoner entering the Prison for the first time, and is suspected to have COVID-19, will also be tested for that disease before entering the prison compound.
“Any inmate who is discovered to have COVID-19 will automatically be transported to one of the locations identified by the Government for treatment. The same goes for any such Prison Officer,” he said.
The Minister further noted that as an added precaution, all visits to HMP Dodds, by relatives, friends or anyone outside of the Prisons’ staff or maintenance team, were prohibited when the curfew took effect.
“I commend the Prisons management and staff who are in the frontline and who are essential to our country’s national security for their continuing efforts to make the Dodds facility as safe as can be for those who are incarcerated,” he concluded.