We are getting serious about Ebola : Jamaica Prime Minister

Yesterday the Prime Minister made a bold move and called all MP’s (both sides) and Mayor’s to a meeting to update the country on the government response to the deadly ebola threat.

In the post meeting interviews, members on both side of the house praise the initiative by the Prime Minister and they even suggested ( yes even the opposition) that meeting was timely and a very good response by the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister finally has decided to act like a leader and stop relegating  the position of leadership to her ministers and that is encouraging.

I am however not as excited as members of the JLP and those of the ruling party, given our most recent pepration for Chikv , which took two years and failed miserably in the end. I heard a good speech by the Prime Minister, which touched the right areas , but the problem with this speech is that many of  the actions are at least 4 -5 months late already. Let’s examine what she said in according to the Gleaner.

“This (Ebola) team will work within the framework of the country’s emergency response and management mechanism now being activated for the Ebola prevention and planning involving all emergency responders,” Simpson Miller said in an update to parliamentarians and mayors across the island.

“We will draw on our national emergency management mechanism – including resources from the Jamaica Defence Force, Jamaica Constabulary Force, Jamaica Fire Brigade, and other key stakeholders – to prepare and respond to this threat,” she added.

Clearing this is an activity that is to be done, but has not yet been done. We would not have expected to here full details one meeting an so my question would be, when the activities mentioned above will commence what is the timeline to have all that in place. Will the PM be giving the public further update via JIS, the Minister etc .

“The Government is on high alert and is closely monitoring developments to learn lessons from the emergency management of cases,” she said.

What does this really mean, where are we monitoring developments is it in Nigeria, USA, Germany or all the above. We are seeing confusion in the USA’s response and in the UK the screening process is being questioned.

Following several weeks of planning, extensive consultations, preparation, and detailed discussions with the senior team at the Ministry of Health, we are putting in place an integrated national coordinating team headed by the Ministry of Health and the Jamaica Defence Force, to lead the country’s heightened preparations.

I would have thought that after weeks of planning, extensive consultations preparations etc, we would have come to the table yesterday with a draft outline of the plan so the public can have a chance to peruse that document.  We are being told that we are only now putting in an integrated approach, ok, so how long will that process take and when will it be completed  or at least at a point where we can say we are in a good position.

A detailed action plan is being developed with a clear command structure. The action plan will have details for various scenarios, what is to be done, by whom, by when, and with what resources.

We will continue to train and sensitise key stakeholders in the coming weeks including our:

Political representatives;

All health workers and their associations in the public and private sectors;

Trade unions;

Immigration and Customs; other airport and seaport management and staff;

Management and staff of all hospitals and health centres – private and public;

Churches and other community-based organisations;

The private sector;

The media;

The JDF; police; ODPEM; the Jamaica Fire Brigade;

Operators of funeral homes;

A robust national communication strategy and programme is being developed and implemented through private- and public-sector collaboration.

That is a good speech and has some of what needs to be in an integrated plan, but my question is how long will it take to produce this plan?

The national plans are being activated and the best possible arrangements are being put in place. The necessary resources are being mobilised.

How many plans are we working on. Are the national plans a part of the integrated plans and how are they interlinked. This appears to be a bit confusing as above it says a integrated plan is being created with clear command structure etc etc, so how does these national plans dove tail in the integrated plan . Maybe outlying these national plans would help clear up any misunderstanding.

The training of health-care professionals has started and is to be increased. We must practise, practise, practise. Immigration, Customs and other airport and seaport staff are being trained.

Training of health professionals commenced in August and is still well under way. Yesterday, senior medical officers and heads of departments at our major health facilities islandwide were trained as part of our preparedness exercise. Immigration personnel at Norman Manley International Airport received training last week Monday and their counterparts at Sangster International Airport were trained on Wednesday last week.

These training exercises will continue. There is more to be done. Training will be provided to all key stakeholder groups to ensure full understanding of the protocols and instructions for implementation.

All required emergency protocols and procedures will be rehearsed several times, over and over again, to reinforce skills and reduce the risk of breaches. Simulation exercises are also being planned. Importantly, follow-up will be done to confirm understanding and ensure achievement of training objectives.

This is very good. These are very specific actions that have been taken and are continuing and will surely go a far way in helping our prepardness. This is what I expect, very specific actions, dates and general outline of what is being done.

 I have instructed the team planning, preparing and monitoring the Ebola threat led by the JDF and the Ministry of Health to be thorough and efficient in their operations. They are to be accessible, upfront, honest, open and clear with the people of Jamaica in all their communication.

Let all of us, as leaders, be guided by the agreed scientific facts and not speculate or express casual opinions which can cause panic and demoralise our front-line workers.

Jamaicans are being encouraged to take action as part of our personal responsibility in this situation. Avoid travelling to Ebola-affected countries and regions, and truthfully declare your travel history when arriving and departing the island.

This is our country. We all have a stake and a vested interest in protecting it and in keeping our people safe and healthy.

Very good once again in terms of the communication strategies and openness being demanded by the PMbut I have one small concern here. The public needs to be very clear in the role of the military and the government must be sure that there will be no militarization of the ebola situation. Governments in Jamaica tend to often use the military to suppress the people and I am hoping that this is not where we are headed. Is the role of the military here to provide stuff like transporting people via helicopter from say the port of entry to an isolation unit?

This is a good first move by the Prime Minister and though 4-5 months late in coming, we must do everything in our power to ensure we do our part of being responsible in out actions, while at the same time hold our elected members accountable.


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