This island???s district hospitals and polyclinics are continually upgrading their equipment to function effectively in the event of a natural disaster.

Minister of Health, John Boyce, made this disclosure today during a Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Planning Workshop for Nursing and Senior Citizens Homes at the Pan American Health Organization, Dayrells Road, St. Michael.

He told those in attendance that the Ministry of Health had been vigilant in making sure that items such as water storage tanks and emergency electrical generators were operational and in good condition at these health facilities.

???In addition, we have recently added wireless radios to the Geriatric Hospital and the district hospitals so communication channels can remain up and running during a hurricane and other natural or man-made disasters???We realise that the Ministry of Health has an ageing physical infrastructure particularly with respect to the district hospitals. however, our staff is committed to go the extra mile to give of their time, skills and effort during a crisis,??? Mr. Boyce said.

He acknowledged that nursing and senior citizens homes were unique because they catered ???for older and weaker persons in our society??? who suffered with mobility problems, dementia, as well as non-communicable diseases.

He posited that each facility should have a disaster plan which was reviewed on a regular basis and which clearly outlined the staff???s roles and responsibilities in the event of a disaster.

???Creation of an emergency and disaster preparedness plan must have input from everyone. Only through this process can responses be timely and appropriate. Simple and inexpensive consideration can include the appropriate signage, fire and emergency drills, storage of emergency rations and foodstuff and knowing where in your community hurricane shelters are located.

???The Ministry of Health and the Pan American Health Organization will continue to provide technical support as you develop and roll out your disaster and emergency plans. The Pan American Health Organization has been of particular assistance by providing a template for disasters and emergency planning that can be used as a guide in your deliberations. Today, I urge you to be innovative in your approach, become involved and make a contribution as we try to protect those vulnerable and elderly ones in our care,??? the Health Minister emphasised.

Mr. Boyce said that the passage of Tropical Storm Chantal last week gave the Ministry of Health the opportunity to review its internal disaster response mechanism including those of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the district hospitals and the eight polyclinics. To this end, he disclosed that nursing homes and senior citizens homes would be included in the National Health Sector Emergency Management Plan when it is reviewed and updated next year.

He further added that the Disaster Preparedness and Management Plan of the Ministry of Health was fully integrated and coordinated with the Department of Emergency Management and other response agencies including the Barbados Defence Force and the District Emergency Organisations.

???I would like to assure the public that the Ministry of Health will make every effort to respond to disasters in a timely and coordinated fashion. Using this approach, we can prevent the loss of life and property and achieve rapid and sustained recovery,??? Mr. Boyce said.

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