Minister of Health and Wellness, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bostic, wants to see the Port Health Section of the Ministry of Health established as a separate entity.
Speaking at a port health seminar for public health nurses and doctors at the Radisson Aquatica Hotel today, the minister noted that at the moment the port health service was “a bit ad hoc”, explaining that it was staffed by the same doctors, nurses and environmental health officers who worked in the polyclinic system.
He stated: “I think the time has come, given the vulnerabilities that we are exposed to as a small island developing state, that we need to establish a specialized port health entity that would be part of a national border security apparatus, which ought to also involve Customs and Immigration, because you need all the eyes and the ears that we can get to be able to provide proper surveillance.”
Minister Bostic said that he was proposing that the entity should be able to stand on its own so that “if there is an incident at one of the ports of entry, responding to that incident by port health officials would not impact in a negative way on the remainder of the public health sector”.
“It is a highly specialized area that requires its own focus, that requires its own staff complement, its own equipment and I think that is how any national security entity, which I consider port health to be, ought to be treated,” he argued.
Lt. Col. Bostic further submitted that the ports of entry needed to share in the cost of port health services.
“I believe the Ministry of Health and Wellness has a responsibility to the country to make sure that the officers have all the equipment that they require in terms of providing health care and being able to do the surveillance. But at the ports of entry I think that those entities need to take greater responsibility for providing the infrastructure that would facilitate the performance of the duties of the port health staff.
“For example, the provision and maintenance of a quarantine station has to be the responsibility of the ports of entry and also transportation to get the officers to vessels or aircraft.”
Minister Bostic said that he had already started discussions with the ministers responsible for the airport and the seaport in respect of this matter.
He assured the port health workers: “Nothing is going to happen until it is discussed with you, so that you have an input and can share your views. Even if you do not agree with the establishment of a separate entity, and I will not fault you if you don’t agree, I’m not going to impose my belief, at least collectively we can come up with a plan to enhance, not only the performance, but to strengthen the organization of the port health officers at the ports of entry.”