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Caribbean doctors among experts in new COVID-19 response

WASHINGTON, USA — Doctors from across the Caribbean have come together to lend their expertise to a new online resource for a sustainable COVID-19 response. The project aims to extract actionable insights from medical practitioners around the world, in order to build capacity in the global fight against the pandemic.

Portals work closely with strategic partners such as geospatial health research organizations that create predictive models of pandemic hotspots. Using relevant data, they provide timely supply chain and logistics intelligence, such as hospital burn rates of protective personal equipment (PPE) and the possible impact of PPE shortages on the upcoming flu season.

“We recognise that cross-border knowledge-sharing is essential to the global COVID-19 response,” said Omo Igiehon, chief executive officer of Portals Global Consulting Group, the US-based firm leading the initiative. “On that basis, we decided to develop this online resource, to make reliable information from trustworthy sources more readily accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world.”

Igiehon’s mother is Jamaican, and he is an alumnus of The University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago.

Portals conducted documentary video interviews with 20 medical practitioners operating in the Caribbean, UK, USA and Africa, including public health officials, family physicians, policymakers, and healthcare workers in long-term care facilities. What they found was the urgent need for international commitment to sustain the response for the long haul.

“Even if it’s a crisis, the adrenaline response can only last so long,” explained Dr Glasha Frank, a health policy adviser in the UK. Frank was born in England and grew up in St Kitts and Nevis in the Eastern Caribbean.

The interviews also shed light on how the available hard data does not easily capture how COVID-19 is affecting families, communities and nations in some parts of the world. In the evolving pandemic, governments and businesses are placing premium value on real-time access to actionable intelligence from on-the-ground experts.

Caribbean doctors interviewed hailed from Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago was recently listed among the most prepared countries in the world to lift COVID-19 lockdown measures, according to the University of Oxford Blavatnik School of Government Coronavirus Government Response Tracker. Even in countries like Trinidad and Tobago that have done well with managing community spread, more is required, and the dangers of complacency are not always clear to the public.

“I am concerned that we are not making the best use of the opportunity to develop the habits required to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We need to make a greater effort  to maintain physical distancing, continue mask-wearing in preparation for the inevitable re-opening of national borders,” said Dr Osafo Fraser, a Guyanese-born family physician and public health practitioner in Trinidad and Tobago.

In the USA, however, the wearing of masks has been politicised. Dr Jason Lofton, a general practitioner and family physician in rural De Queen, Arkansas, sees the politicization of COVID-19 as both regrettable and dangerous.

“It’s not a political issue; it’s a virus,” Lofton said.

In June, Portals supplied Fairfax County, Virginia with 15,000 FDA-approved KN95 masks, to boost COVID-19 response capacity in its home county. The firm has made similar donations across the USA to schools and non-profit organizations and schools, through credible volunteer organizations.

This article was originally published on Portals LLC.



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