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Step aside now

Corey Worrell

Step aside now

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I love my country, I do. I don’t like everything about it, but this is home and this island has contributed to my development and has been good to me.

Those who know me and those who follow me on Facebook know that my heart’s desire is to see this country be the best it can be. When I see occurrences or decisions being made that in my opinion don’t contribute to the country being its best, it hurts me deeply and I feel a need to comment.

I have been following the Ebola outbreak internationally from the start and have been posting constant updates on my Facebook page to keep people informed. I shared my concerns as it related to Barbados’ initial slow to non-existent preparation for the outbreak; lack of proper communication and dissemination of information to the public, as well as the inadequate size and location of the isolation centre being constructed.

Much attention has been placed on the ongoing dispute between the Ministry of Health and the parents and staff of the Ursuline Convent with regard to the location of the isolation centre. As a parent myself, regardless if the virus was airborne or not, I would also be very concerned and vocal about my children’s well-being. The knowledge alone that such a high-risk facility was so close to my children’s school would indeed worry me and also provoke a response and action.

I am in full agreement with Sherwyn Walters who wrote in Tuesday’s Daily Nation that “empathy, sensitivity and other emotions are high level marks of our special humanness”. Unfortunately, I have concluded that these characteristics are not common to our current administration. We saw evidence of this during the retrenchment process when thousands of Barbadians lost their jobs and with Irene Sandiford-Garner’s comments on the Sandals job fair. It presented its ugly head again when neither the acting nor substantive ministers of health or education were present at the meeting with the parents and staff of the Ursuline Convent.

That being said, I am saddened, disappointed and even offended that most, if not all, of the resistance and opposition to the location of this isolation centre was based on its closeness to the Ursuline Convent. What about the low-income grassroots families who live in this area? What about those who are some of the most needy within that district? I haven’t heard anyone speaking on their behalf. Where is the Member of Parliament for the area Richard Sealy? Don’t these families need representation as well?

Senior representatives from within the Ministry of Health have asked us not to fear and have asked the Barbadian public not to travel to Ebola affected countries unless absolutely necessary. Now, if ministry officials have concerns with Barbadians going to infected zones, why don’t they share an equal concern with persons from those zones coming here? Why hasn’t the important decision been made, which prevents the disease from reaching our shores? I don’t think we understand the gravity of this disease.

Another concern I have is that the ministry has said it has had consultations with international health agencies with regard to the setting up of the isolation centre. It has not shared the list of those agencies and has not communicated to the public if the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been involved in these consultations. In an article carried in the Press on October 21, a top official in the Barbados Defence Force  said their medical centre did not meet the required international standards, as specified by the WHO, for either isolation or quarantine of infectious disease victims. My question is, does the current isolation centre meet those international standards of the WHO?

In my opinion, the minister of health has shown poor management and leadership in handling this serious global threat. He should therefore step aside immediately and allow someone else to take charge, as it is clear he isn’t the man for the job. My greatest disappointment and even hurt throughout this crisis is that the prime minister has not even addressed his country or people. He has shown no leadership, concern, sensitivity or care and this is indeed disheartening.

If Ebola reaches us tomorrow, what will we do?

• Corey Worrell is a former Commonwealth Youth Ambassador.