BASSETERRE, St Kitts (SKNIS) -- St Kitts and Nevis is well underway in enhancing and improving its hospital and medical facility safety in line with a Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) health institutional safety during disasters programme.
According to visiting PAHO disaster risk reduction specialist Nicole Wynter, her organisation became involved with safety of health institution in 2007 and officially began its campaign in 2008.
She said the organization became even more resolved to continue efforts when in 2009 the theme for World Health Day was declared to be “Health Facilities in Emergencies.”
It was decided that four main components of safety would be assessed.
“We look at the functional component that has to do with the staff, ensuring that patients and staff can continue to access the facility,” Wynter explained. “You’d appreciate that if during and after a disaster no staff turns up – you cannot deliver the service. So it’s about training the staff, its about putting contingency plans in place to ensure that you know what to do. You can respond if one thing does not work, then you can put systems and processes in place to ensure continuity of these services. It’s about having the necessary resources and surge capacity to be able to continue the services.”
Structural safety, non-structural safety and location make up the other three components.
The programme began initially by working with eight hospitals in the region, then four of those facilities were selected for direct assistance. These facilities are in S. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, and St Vincent. As such, the current visit to the Federation involves assessing the level of improvement in the Federation’s health facilities, particularly the Alexandra Hospital, which is the focus of this phase of the programme.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Andrew Skerritt noted that St Kitts and Nevis was meeting the programme’s requirements.
“This is a very good initiative and a very good meeting because we’re all about safety in our health systems here in St Kitts and Nevis,” Skerritt noted. “The government and by extension the ministry of health has expended large sums of money to ensure the safety of its hospitals, the safety of its health centres and this meeting is just to further see how we can improve or build on the safety initiatives that are already in place.”
Jocelyn Lance, of the Head Office of the European Commission – DG Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO), explained that his department was funding 95 percent of the PAHO hospital safety during disasters programme and explained the next phase.
“The next step is exactly to see the recommendations which have been provided and see what can be proposed for the region,” Lance stated. “It is important to try to scale up this initiative and reduce the number of hospitals in the at-risk area, so that they can use their functionality in cases of disaster.”