We are deeply saddened and mourn the passing of two health care workers to COVID-19 illness, one in Barbados the other in Antigua and Barbuda. In Barbados a Nursing Assistant assigned to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, succumbed to the illness on Sunday, February 14, 2021, while in Antigua and Barbuda a Nurse and Matron of the Hannah Thomas Hospital died on Monday, February 15, 2021.
On behalf of the Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Dr Carissa Etienne, and PAHO personnel in the country, we extend our deepest condolences to the Governments and People of Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda, to their families and coworkers of these extraordinary heroes, said Dr. Yitades Gebre, PAHO/WHO Representative to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Countries.
At this time, we would like to reemphasize the safety and protection of health workers to be of paramount importance, as they are the backbone of our health system.
PAHO’s primary concerns has been to ensure health workers have access to personal protective equipment (PPE). Lack of PPE or proper training on how to use it are some of the factors that are contributing to infections in health workers. We have been addressing this issue since the beginning of the pandemic.
Dr. Gebre also stated, “other contributing factors that policy makers should address are reducing the workload and stress on health workers. They need psychosocial support in these trying circumstances. Communities can play their part by adopting behaviours that reduce disease spread so that healthcare systems, and as result health workers, are not burdened. We all have a role to play.”
On an ongoing basis, PAHO has provided Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda with essential COVID-19 supplies to protect health workers. These include Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits containing gloves, surgical gowns, surgical and N95 masks, safety glasses, and biosafety bags.
The training of health care workers has also been a priority for PAHO, some of the areas covered included infection prevention and control (IPC), and critical care management of COVID-19 patients, which was specifically provided for nurses.
With the recent rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine in countries, we continue to call for vaccination of health workers and vulnerable groups like the elderly first, while continuing to advocate and educate on physical distancing, avoiding crowds, wearing masks and practice hand hygiene.
PAHO will continue to work with the Governments of Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda , through their Ministry of Health and Wellness by providing technical assistance and essential COVID-19 related supplies and equipment, in its effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.