More chikungunya funds
KINGSTON – The Government has pumped another JA$350 million (BDS$6.2 million) into its response to the chikungunya outbreak and again appealed to Jamaicans to do what they can to prevent the virus from spreading.
At the same, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller assured the country that the authorities have stepped up planning for prevention and effective management of the deadly Ebola virus if the need arises.
Addressing journalists at this week’s Jamaica House press briefing yesterday, Simpson Miller said that, following on her allocation last week of JA$150 million to combat the spread of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus, a total of JA$500 million is now available for the current national health emergency response, including clean-up activities and other urgent needs of the health ministry.
“The increased expenditure is a step in the right direction, but this is not a problem that will be solved by only money,” the prime minister said.
“Ridding the country of mosquitoes which spread the CHIKV is also not a fight which the Government can undertake by itself. And, while the Government is committed to doing everything it can to contain the spread of the virus and protect the population, our citizens also have a responsibility and a role to play,” Simpson Miller added.
“I call on every single Jamaican to get involved by keeping their surroundings free of debris and materials which serve as breeding sites for mosquitoes,” she appealed.
Simpson Miller also said that there are enough supplies of paracetamol available free of cost at all public health facilities and at private retail outlets, and, as such, “there is no need for any unreasonable increase in the price of the commodity”.
She also announced that some health centres in the South East Regional Health Authority will have extended opening hours – from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The prime minister’s announcement came after an earlier advisory that Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson gave the order for the extended opening hours out of concern that people are unable to afford the cost of private care and the tests being requested by some private medical facilities.
“The decision to extend opening hours also comes after a reported increase in the number of persons who are seeking care at hospitals. In light of this increased demand, I have instructed that the South East Region extend the hours for a number of primary care facilities to accommodate those persons who can be treated at the health centre level,” the released quoted Dr Ferguson.
There has been a run on pharmacies in recent weeks as the debilitating effects of the virus have been wreaking havoc among Jamaicans.
In relation to the threat of Ebola, the prime minister said that the contingency action plan includes the Ministry of Health and ODPEM receiving logistics co-ordination support from the Jamaica Defence Force, and public safety and law and order enforcement support from the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
“The chief of defence staff, the commissioner of police, and the permanent secretary in the Ministry of National Security are among the stakeholder officials who have been briefed on the situation by the Ministry of Health,” she said.
“Sensitisation and refresher training on operating procedures and protocols will be held with entities and professionals earmarked as first responders in any possible Ebola health emergency,” the prime minister said.
“These professionals include health care workers at all levels, soldiers, the police, private security providers, airline staff, firefighters, cleaning service managers and workers, and airport and seaport workers among others. Additionally, operators and staff of funeral homes, journalists, media managers, hotel management and staff, workers’ unions, and churches are among other identified key stakeholders in this exercise,” Simpson Miller explained.
She reiterated that an adequate stock of various levels of protective gear for emergency responders, including health care workers, is currently in the island, and additional supplies are available for immediate delivery by international partners through arrangements already in place.
“Quarantine facilities and equipped medical isolation wards are also being established,” she said. “At the same time, we have initiated efforts to acquire necessary screening equipment for the island’s ports of entry.
“We have also engaged our various international partners to assist Jamaica with our prevention planning, response preparedness and surveillance,” the prime minister added. (Jamaica Observer)