A five-day mass casualty management workshop, funded by the Pan American Health Organisation, has been a main focus in Anguilla this week at Masara Resort, Katouche, with a number of participants drawn from key departments in the public sector in attendance.
Dr. Bonnie Richardson-Lake, PNO Serene Carter-Davis, Mr. Delvin Ferguson, Mr. Lynrod Brooks, Steve McDowell and Chanelle Petty-Barrett
Health Planner, Lynrod Brooks, who chaired the opening ceremony, noted that emergencies and crises, stemming from various disasters, had become more frequent in recent times, especially in middle and low income countries. He observed that this had led to disruption of healthcare programmes and essential services and slowing the process of sustainable human development. He concluded that many lives could have been saved if affected communities were better prepared with response systems already in place.
He stated that the overall concept of the mass casualty management workshop was to train the participants to be involved in a community response to a large-scale disaster.
Mrs. Chanelle Petty-Barrett, Acting Deputy Governor, said it was the responsibility of every Government to ensure public safety and provide emergency relief in a crisis. “It was for this reason that Government must invest in preparing for mass casualty incidents,” she went on, in part. “Whether such incidents are the result of natural disasters, with which we are familiar, such as hurricanes, earthquakes and floods, or those with which we have had less experience, such as tsunamis, we must be prepared. Man-made disasters are no less intimidating and while, as a tiny Caribbean island, we may escape the threat of global terror, we cannot lose sight of our vulnerability to man-made disasters. In reality, the prime response to a mass casualty event falls to the emergency first responders and the medical community.
Participants in the workshop
“The Ministry of Health, therefore, has a major role to play in national emergency involving mass casualty. With this in mind, it would be prudent for us to increase the preparedness of the health sector to manage the consequences of mass casualty incidents by building capacity. It is important, though, to recognise that while the Ministry of Health will have to be the focal point for coordination and communication in the aftermath of a mass casualty incident, most mass casualty incidents will require a national response. The success or failure of the response depends on the cooperation of several sectors, many of which are represented here today, as well as the assistance of regional and international partners. Our strategy for managing mass casualty incidents must be directed at enabling all sectors to prepare for, respond to, and recover from, a mass casualty incident. The fact that you are about to embark on a mass casualty management workshop, indicates that the Ministry of Health, and the Pan American Health Organisation, are taking proactive measures to reduce risk and improve response.”
The PAHO Consultant/Mass Casualty Trainer, Delvin Ferguson, coined the phrase that the Caribbean was “a beautiful place in the wrong spot.” He further stated that the Caribbean was classified as one of the world’s most disaster-prone regions. This was due in part to volcanoes, numerous hurricanes as well as earthquakes such as this year’s massive one in Haiti, where there was tremendous loss of life.
Mr. Ferguson stressed the importance for everyone in the various sectors, and in the community, to be properly educated as it related to mass casualty management. He noted that while disaster responders from outside Anguilla would provide assistance, it was in fact the people of the island who were expected to do most of the work, and so it was up to them to get their own island prepared.
The workshop was declared open by Dr. Bonnie Richardson-Lake, Permanent Secretary, Health and Social Development. She observed that there were similar training workshops in the past and it was important to build on the past. She listed a number of disasters likely to affect the region, all of which could constitute a mass casualty event.
“The involvement of all responders, including the health sector, the Department of Disaster Management, the Royal Anguilla Police Force, Fire and Rescue Services, Civil Aviation, Red Cross, Port Authority, Immigration and Customs, are all very crucial partners in disaster response,” she emphasised.
Dr. Richardson-Lake congratulated the facilitators, the rest of the team from the Ministry of Health and, in particular, Katrina Smith, the Country Programme Officer from PAHO, for coordinating the training workshop. She was grateful to Mr. Ferguson for returning to Anguilla as the main facilitator.
Delvin Ferguson, the PAHO consultant, Mrs. Serene Carter-Davis, Chief Nursing Officer/Director Quality Assurance, and Steve McDowall, Senior Emergency Medical Technician were the main facilitators for the workshop. The training sessions from Monday morning, to Friday afternoon, included various mass casualty management exercises, group discussions and presentations.