Staff from the Sint Maarten Ministry of Public Health, Social Development & Labour (Ministry VSA), St. Maarten Tourist Bureau, the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA), and Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort & Casino, took part in a two-day workshop coordinated by the Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department within Ministry VSA, with the objective of developing communicable disease prevention guidelines for the Hospitality Industry of Sint Maarten.
The theme for the workshop was: “Setting standards/guidelines to ensure a healthy hospitality industry: A collaborative initiative between the public and private industry.”
The workshop was organized due to the economic importance of the tourism industry to the country. The effects of a communicable disease crisis can potentially be devastating and can have long-term impacts on a destination and the nation’s economy.
The effort underway is also part of the country’s compliance with International Health regulations (IHR 2005), therefore a collective response by the public and private (hospitality) sector in required once an event is confirmed and considered a potential public health risk in order to mitigate the spread and minimize the damage to the population and the economy.
The goal of the workshops was the exchange of information and to collectively come to a consensus in describing a preparedness and response plan in managing infectious diseases.
A step-by-step approach will be taken to integrate health and hygiene into the hospitality policies, manuals and guidelines. A committee is to be formed to manage and monitor the implementation of the results of the workshop.
This committee will develop a plan of action with timelines as a roadmap to plan, strategize and execute actions based on suggestions and recommendations that came out of the workshop. The committee is scheduled to meet next week.
The aim of the two-day workshop is to develop a manual for Outbreak Control Management; that the manual be used to train and educate staff in the use of the manual; and to ensure that standard operating procedures are in place to monitor the use of the manual.
There were a number of presentations that included the transfer of information to all present about foodborne diseases: shigella, salmonella; airborne diseases: H1N1, influenza; waterborne diseases: legionnaires; vector borne diseases: rats (leptospirosis or Weil’s disease), mosquito’s (dengue, chikungunya, zika); contact disease: norovirus.
Two case studies were used for the workshop related to the norovirus, one related to a cruise ship and what actions were taken, and the second one of a hotel resort.
The responsibilities of Inspectorate VSA and the responsibilities of the hospitality establishment were also profiled.
The workshop took place on July 28 and 29 at Sonesta Great Bay Hotel & Casino.