“The results can be disastrous,” said Dr. George Norton of any case of the Ebola Virus arriving in Guyana.
Dr. Norton, the Shadow Minister of Health within A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), told this publication that not only is Guyana not prepared to deal with the deadly virus but should it arrive “we will panic.”
And the two aspects are completely linked since panic will result from the awareness that “we do not have everything in place to deal with the virus.” Dr. Norton further shared his conviction that “it is almost impossible, once we have a positive case here, that other persons will not be infected; I do think that other persons will be infected and to a large extent too…not just one or two but much more…”
Dr. Norton believes that when Guyana’s small economy is taken into consideration it would be very difficult to put all necessary measures in place. He intimated that while guidelines are available to be followed there is no doubt that efforts at combating the virus require sizeable investments.
He said, “We cannot just sit back and wait for certainty to find out if a patient has Ebola or not before we can put these things in place; it is not that we are on a wild goose chase in terms of our spending but because of our economy we have to be careful with our spending in trying to control a potential Ebola outbreak,” said Dr. Norton.
He said that while infrastructure must be high on the agenda another crucial aspect in dealing with just about any public health challenge is that of education. “Dissemination of information is important and that is something we must not fall back on at all…we have to start having regular information in the newspaper; we want to see billboards and posters on the lantern posts,” said Dr. Norton. Then he turned his attention to a recent suspected case that was seen at the GPHC.
The case which was later ruled out as Ebola was one that attracted much attention among many persons within and without the institution seeking to enquire whether Ebola had in fact arrived.
But this should have never been the case, Dr. Norton noted, since even before word got around, the hospital or the Ministry of Health should have made a public disclosure. The hospital, following unofficial reports of the case, acknowledged that a female patient was attended to at the hospital but was exhibiting symptoms of the Ebola virus despite reports that moves were made to quarantine the patient.
The bottom flat of the new outpatient building has been identified as the hospital’s quarantine area. However, Dr Norton has questioned the wisdom of the hospital’s administration and even the Ministry of Health to so designate a section of that “busy” hospital.
“Many a persons are of the opinion that because the Georgetown Hospital is such a busy place if we are ever going to isolate persons we should not isolate there (at GPHC); that does not make a lot of sense…”
Dr. Norton is convinced that the local health sector should not encourage home treatment for persons suspected to be inflicted with the virus for one reason or another. “We want to know what is being done; we are all human, we care and we want to know the status (what’s happening),” said Dr. Norton who added that the public hospital is currently not even prepared in terms of available protective gear.
“That alone tells us where we are…” said Dr. Norton even as he emphasised the need for additional support from various persons to support the ongoing efforts. “We are all in this together,” emphasised the Shadow Health Minister as he amplified the need to not only monitor ports of entry but to ensure that other illegitimate entries are secured.
It is Dr. Norton’s hope that such entries should be closed. He noted that while persons travelling will be eligible for pre-screening at some international airports ahead of their entry here, the “back track” entries will not be monitored to ensure necessary measures are undertaken to prevent the entry of the virus.
An outbreak of the virus was first reported earlier this year in West Africa and to date several sections of that territory have reported many cases of the virus. There have been thousands of resulting deaths even as countries around the world are taking precautions to combat the potential threat.
As part of Guyana’s efforts to prevent the Ebola Virus from entering Guyana, moves have been made by Government to institute restrictions against travellers from West Africa.
In a statement posted on Facebook by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, it was noted that Government since early September discussed Guyana’s preparedness to deal with Ebola.
“On September 9, 2014, all Embassies and Consulates abroad have been instructed by me not to issue visas to nationals from West African countries for the time being. The Embassies and Consulates have not issued any visas since then,” she added.
But according to Rodrigues-Birkett, while this does not constitute a travel ban for persons from African countries (Africa has 54 countries), the measure implemented is aimed at dealing with the deadly Ebola virus which is seen as a challenge to both developed and developing countries alike.
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