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Cuban doctors to further bolster regional health services, amid COVID-19

By Caribbean News Global contributor

BASSETERRE, St Kitts – St Kitts and Nevis, medical internist Dr Terrance Drew with responsibility for the portfolio of health in the NextGen SKN shadow cabinet, recently appealed to the Timothy Harris administration to immediately request help from the government of Cuba to send a specialist to Basseterre in the event someone becomes infected with COVID-19.

“This is a very serious matter and I appeal to the government. I am willing to speak to those who will listen at the leadership of the health sector that we need better preparation and to have the necessary specialist on the ground who would put in place the infrastructure to deal with any cases of the coronavirus,” he said.

COVID-19 outbreak in Latin America – Caribbean ‘very high’, but containment possible

Dr Drew, who recently returned from Germany laying the groundwork to forge the necessary partnerships and commitments to provide better healthcare for St Kitts – Nevis made the commitment that Cuban-trained doctors will be removed from the STEP programme and adequately paid for services rendered when the NextGen SKN forms the government after the 2020 elections.

“No more will our doctors be placed on the STEP programme. It is absolutely embarrasing and disrespectul after they would have spent seven years studying and training in Cuba,” said Dr Drew, a medical internist and the shadow minister of health.

This appeal was reinforced with the continuing spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 worldwide and concern that the United States is reporting a case of unknown origin and death, Dr Drew reiterated his call for St Kitts and Nevis ministry of health “to inform the people regularly and consistently and update the public of the plan to deal with this disease.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health officials in the state of Washington have reported three hospitalized patients who have tested presumptive-positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, including one patient who died.

Two of the patients are from a long-term care facility (LTCF) where one is a health care worker. Additional residents and staff of the LTCF who have not yet been tested for COVID-19 are reportedly either ill with respiratory symptoms or hospitalized with pneumonia of unknown cause.

The patient who died, a male in his 50s, was being treated at the same hospital. He was not a resident of the LTCF. CDC erroneously identified the patient as female in a briefing earlier [today] with the president and vice president.

While there is an ongoing investigation, the source of these infections is currently unknown. Circumstances suggest person-to-person spread in the community, including in the LTCF.

Meanwhile, in Jamaica, an additional 30 Cuban medical professionals arrived in Jamaica on Thursday, February 27 to “further bolster the government’s delivery of quality healthcare services.”

Minister of health and wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, at a signing ceremony for the renewal of the Technical Cooperation Agreement with the ministry of public health of the Republic of Cuba, noted that there are currently 276 Cuban medical professionals in the island and that the latest batch is as a result of ongoing bilateral agreements between the governments of Cuba and Jamaica.

Mindful of bilateral agreement of cooperation and Cuban medical professionals in many facets of the regional health system and the complex challenges in the health sector, disease control; prevention, emergency preparedness, surveillance and response”, said Dr Drew who is also chairman of the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP). “We must continue to work with our regional partners as our health sector is too fragile to confront this monstrosity. I am suggesting that we ask Cuba to send experts and specialists as we are lacking in the areas of infectious diseases and ICU/ Pulmonary specialties,” he said.

“I am committed to keeping our people informed,” said Dr Drew, who noted that it took the health authorities in the United States days to even test this patient and more days for results to come back.

“This implies that others out there have the disease that are not yet known. The CDC is now tracking about 8600 persons who may be at risk from this one case. Moreover, about 100 health workers are at risk,” said Dr Drew, pointing out, just imagine if this were St Kitts and Nevis.

“Our country has close ties with the United States. There is a movement of our people and visitors each day. Cruise passengers from around the world visit our shores as well as the rest of the Caribbean. Therefore, there is some level of risk that St Kitts and Nevis and the Caribbean bear at this time.”

“Therefore, I am asking our people to practice good hygiene,” Dr Drew said.

  • Wash hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
  • Sneeze into the flexed elbow or Tissue then dispose of it;
  • Stay away from persons who are symptomatic;
  • Persons who feel sick should stay away from other persons and contact their doctor and drink fluids and remain hydrated.




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