“The Ebola situation is one that we are all taking very seriously. Although the possibility of the Ebola Virus Disease reaching St. Maarten is very low, given the recent and past global health emergencies such as HINI, Swine Flu, Bird Flu, etc, the Ministry of Public Health along with key stakeholders are taking the opportunity to review the preparedness plans which are already in place and revitalize the system”, said Minister of Public Health Cornelius de Weever. It has created a window of opportunity for all stakeholders to sit down and discuss what St. Maarten needs in this modern day to be prepared for any future public heath emergencies on infectious diseases.
The current national preparations for Ebola virus disease (EVD) not only is part of the requirements of International Health Regulations (IHR) and preps for other infectious diseases, but also allows the various entities throughout the country to comply with IHR requirements which country Sint Maarten has an obligation to meet as part of the collective responsibility towards the global health system.
Together with the Immigration and Border Protection Department, Customs, St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC), Department of Communication, Tourist Bureau, Civil Aviation and Maritime Affairs, St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies Port St. Maarten, and SXM Airport, St. Maarten is preparing itself from all angles to deal with any potential Ebola threat and any future infection disease emergencies.
On Tuesday, all stakeholders met at SXM Airport to receive an update about the preparations underway for any possible Ebola case approaching the airport border. At the meeting SXM Airport gave an extensive overview on the preparedness plan that they have in place. The Airport has already purchased two isolation units and have established the necessary protocols in case of such an event. A tour was given to illustrate where the isolation units will be placed and how any possible case would be handled. The location of the isolation units also has adequate space for the staging of the emergency services.
The Airport has also developed an Infectious Disease Manual which is a ‘living document’ that they will continue to update whenever deemed necessary in consultation with the Ministry of VSA to ensure cooperation and validity. An Infectious Disease Taskforce was also established in order to work closely with the Ministry of VSA on continued collaboration. The Taskforce includes various representatives from civil aviation and SXM Airport. The main objectives are to work together to educate and continuously update the airport community, to ensure members are prepared to deal with suspected cases of infectious diseases, to ensure Ebola is stopped at the airport border or earlier, to ensure a system is in place to respond to any suspected cases, and to train the airport community how to identify and respond to any possible cases.
Dr. Virginia Asin, Head of Collective Prevention Services (CPS) commended Larry Donker, SXM Airport Director of Operations, and his team at SXM Airport for their pro-active approach and cooperation. She mentioned her gratitude for their insight and support throughout the process and looks forward to continue to work together to safeguard the health and well-being of St. Maarten.
Meetings amongst the various stakeholders will continue in order to finalize the new preparedness plan. Through the Department of Communication the people of St. Maarten people will receive an extensive overview in a visual format that will highlight all aspects of the Ebola Preparedness Plan thus far.