Regional teams to help with Ebola
BARBADOS AND SOME Caribbean countries are considering sending small teams of health professionals to West Africa to help countries struggling to deal with the exploding Ebola epidemic.
Although a final decision has not been made, the Caribbean Public Health Agency, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are discussing how the region can extend a helping hand to the affected countries where about 4 000 people have died.
The possibility of sending of two-people teams to West Africa was discussed by CARICOM health ministers when they met recently at PAHO headquarters in Washington. Barbados’ Minister of Health John Boyce participated in the talks.
“The decisions taken in Washington include both individually and collectively achieving the objectives of the International Health Regulations and that we must be fully prepared just in case, God forbid, a case was recorded in the region,” Dr James Hospidales, executive director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), told the MIDWEEK NATION after the Washington meeting.
“Given the situation in West Africa, consideration is being given to deploying people in West Africa. They need help and with proper training and precautions of course. We have been in discussion with WHO, thinking of teams of two going to those countries affected. If that happens, there would be an additional benefit. We would then have some capacity built up ourselves on people’s return home to enable us to face something like this were it to come to our shores.
“We are putting in place the mechanisms for sending people to West Africa,” he added. “CARPHA is part of the global outbreak and response mechanism of WHO and we have been in dialogue with them. Chief medical officers [across the Caribbean] have outlined their willingness to consider that (proposal) and to set up a framework for people from the Caribbean going to help. The help is urgently needed and I wish to stress that.
“We wouldn’t want the Caribbean to be a part of the coalition of inaction. It has to be done in such a way that people are properly trained, oriented and prepared. We are thinking internally of teams of two and on their return, we would have a much more valuable system. There is no substitute for experience in dealing with a problem if it were to arrive here in our region or other things like that.”
Cuba has already sent 165 medical personnel to West Africa.