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Government Develops National Ebola Action Plan

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Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, says the Government is putting in place a National Action Plan to effectively address the Ebola virus, and to deal with the disease, in the event of a outbreak.

Additionally, she said, an Integrated National Coordinating Team, to be headed by the Ministry of Health and Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), is being established to lead the country’s heightened Ebola preparations.

The Prime Minister made the announcements, while addressing a meeting involving Government Ministers, Parliamentarians, and representatives of state agencies, at Jamaica House on Tuesday, October 14, where she provided an update on Jamaica’s national emergency response and preparedness for Ebola.

Mrs. Simpson Miller explained that the plan is being developed with a “clear command structure.”

“The…plan will have details for various scenarios (in terms of) what is to be done, by whom, and with what resources,” she informed.

Key to the process is the training of health professionals and other critical stakeholders, including parliamentarians and community-based organizations, in the various procedures to be carried out, which Mrs. Simpson Miller said has started “and is to be increased.”

“Training of health professionals commenced in August, and is still well underway. On Monday, October 13, Senior Medical Officers, and Heads of Departments at our major health facilities island-wide, were trained as part of our preparedness exercise,” she informed.

The Prime Minister said immigration and customs officers, and other air and seaport staff, are also being trained.

“Immigration personnel at (Kingston’s) Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) received training last week Monday (October 6), and their counterparts at (Montego Bay’s) Sangster International Airport (SIA) were trained on Wednesday, last week (October 8). These training exercises will continue…to ensure full understanding of the protocols and instructions for implementation,” she indicated.

The Prime Minister advised that she has sought assistance from the government of a country that “is very close to us” to help, as best as possible, with the training and preparation of Jamaica’s health professionals and other stakeholders.

“I am pushing to see how quickly we can get some of our health care professionals to be trained by (that) country, which I believe, understands how to deal with Ebola. I am hoping (and) I am sure that (that) country will give us a positive (response)… shortly…so that we can begin…preparation of our health professionals (as well as members of the) JDF, Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), and Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB), among others,” she stated.

Mrs. Simpson Miller pointed out that the requisite emergency protocols and procedures to be carried out have been “customized” by the Ministry of Health “and are specific to ensure relevance to each stakeholder.”

“All (of these) will be rehearsed several times over…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 the achievement of objectives,” she stated.

In relation to the Integrated National Coordinating Team, Mrs. Simpson Miller said this body “will work within the framework of the country’s Emergency Response and Management Mechanism, now being activated for Ebola Prevention and Planning, and involving all emergency responders.”

Mrs. Simpson Miller also advised that a “robust” national communications strategy and programme is being developed and implemented through private and public sector collaboration.

“The public education campaign will rely on proven methods of communication and social mobilization including the use of mainstream and social media; community networks such as churches, the Social Development Commission (SDC), Parish Councils, Members of Parliament, and the engagement of our trade unions and employers,” she advised.

By Douglas Mcintosh

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