Bridgetown, Barbados, November 09, 2021 (PAHO/WHO) - A show of continued partnership was demonstrated today when the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) handed over several essential supplies and equipment to the Ministry of Health and Wellness in Barbados.
In addition to providing Covid-19 countermeasure tools, supplies and equipment, PAHO supports its member states through technical cooperation. Dr. Yitades Gebre, PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Countries and the team of technical advisors informed about some of the areas of collaboration at the handing over ceremony.
“PAHO is assisting countries in vital areas including procurement of medications and supplies, oxygen management strategies, deployment of rapid tests to improve surveillance and response, and expansion of hospital capacity,” reported Dr. Gebre.
He noted that “We are also supporting countries to overcome supply problems with syringes and diluents. That means we must make investments in immunization capacity and staffing a top priority. Our investments today will pave the way for a strong recovery after the pandemic.”
The information technology (IT) equipment donated was procured to strengthen surveillance of the Event Supposedly Attributed to Vaccination and Immunization (ESAVI) at both the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).
Dr. Darlene Omeir, PAHO/WHO Advisor for Family and Community Health explained that the QEH was selected as a Sentinel Hospital and forms part of the Regional Network of Sentinel Hospitals to monitor ESAVI and Adverse Events of Special Interest (AESI)in the Region of the Americas. “This means that the QEH will seek to generate quality data (timely, complete, and consistent), which will be detected, reported, and analyzed by trained personnel, using the list of events to be monitored provided by WHO, something that cannot be achieved through passive surveillance,” she said.
From the start of the pandemic and even before preparing the Best dos Santos Public Health Laboratory in diagnosing Covid-19, PAHO/WHO provided support by training staff of the Ministry of Health and Wellness and providing much needed reagents as required.
Dr. Prabhjot Singh, PAHO/WHO Advisor for Health Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control highlighted some of the support provided to the laboratory service in Barbados. “Last month, on the request of the ministry, PAHO/WHO conducted an evaluation of the diagnostic quality of the laboratory and found it to be in excellent condition. It was within this evaluation that PAHO was able to recommend that the country focus testing and resources on people who have symptoms or the contacts of known cases. The recent change in the ministry’s strategy to not test all incoming passengers, is thus a step in the right direction.”
Dr. Cecilia Acuna, PAHO/WHO Advisor for Health Systems and Services reminded that health and care workers are the foundation of health systems and the driving force to achieving universal health coverage and global health security. “Access to universal health requires investment and protection at all times and especially during health emergencies. We must all, therefore, commit to ensuring safe and decent working conditions for our health and care workers, and to protecting their health, including their mental health,” she stated.
Dr. Acuna noted that it was within this context that the personal protective equipment (PPE) were donated, for the protection of the health care workers.
Minister of Health and Wellness, Lt Col. Jeffery Bostic acknowledged his appreciated to PAHO for the contributions made whether technical or material support. Citing a specific example he said, “I would like to particularly thank you since we last met, for allowing Dr Lionel Gresh, PAHO Virologist to come and spend some time with us at the Laboratory. He helped us to train additional staff and organize better at the lab. As a result of his visit, we have been able to handle the situation that confronts us at this point in time in relation to testing.” The minister noted that testing policy and strategy were some of the areas discussed and recommendations made, some of which have been already implemented.
The donation valued at US $400,000, included PPE kits and IT equipment geared towards vaccination and immunization response as well as Covid-19 pandemic response. Twelve (12) laptop computers, 3 printers, 10 headsets, 20 surge protectors, 22,250 gowns, 2,700 face shields, 22,500 surgical masks, 900 KN95 masks and 45,000 gloves were among the items donated.