Health and Wellness Minister Moses Jn. Baptiste is appealing to members of the public to exercise caution and diligence as the country navigates through a health crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jn. Baptiste stressed that the pandemic is not yet over, and so people must use their discretion and take on the responsibility of looking after their personal welfare and that of their family and loved ones.
Noting that the country recently registered a total of 17 covid-19 related deaths, the health minister said, the authorities are monitoring the situation closely in order to adequately deal with that issue.
“Very clearly, Covid-19 continues to be a very serious problem and our medical professionals are also reporting the usual increase in respiratory problems, especially around this time with the rainy season and so on, ”Jn. Baptiste told reporters outside parliament , recently.
He said the situation presents a major cause of concern as health officials implement measures to curb this trend.
Jn. Baptiste noted that the government continues to liaise with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) to procure the latest medication available, while the ministry of health continues to source out the latest COVID-19 medication.
How pleased are the health authorities with the vaccination procedures and has the public response been forthcoming in that regard?
The health minister reiterates that the authorities are not fully satisfied with the level of response and “we continue to be hopeful that Saint Lucians will see vaccination as a very important option in their general health care and with concerns for their wellbeing.”
He said the issues revolving around COVID-19 has brought about lots of skeptism and it has also impacted other diseases and other preventative measures relating to vaccination.
“The ministry is now re-strategising to ensure that vaccination in general, and not only for COVID-19, but that vaccination in general becomes a subject that Saint Lucians begin to realize once again is very important.”
He recalled that individuals got vaccinated in the primary stages of life “but because of what happened with COVID-19 and all of the discussions on social media about vaccination …we saw all the negative impacts on other aspects of health care where vaccination is concerned.”
Jn. Baptiste said that while the ministry of health remains concerned over this matter, the officials are hopeful that more people will get vaccinated.
He noted that though the health protocols have been relaxed, nevertheless, the ministry continues to encourage that certain regulations be adhered to, such as mask wearing in facilities and enclosed environments.
However , he adds, “we need to double up in our efforts to ensure that people realize that COVID-19 is still around and so everybody must take personal responsibility to ensure that we continue to follow the health protocols.
“And even though there are no mandates, we want to encourage individuals to take personal responsibility.”
Commenting on the recent14 million Euros loan facility from the European Union (EU), Jn. Baptiste admits that the funds will among other things help with payments for the use of quarantine facilities.
He added, “It will assist us in ensuring that we strengthen the Gros Islet Polyclinic, it will ensure that we are timely with our procurement of medication …and we will also ensure that the St Jude Hospital and our Health and Wellness centres receive support.”
The minister said the funds will be disbursed across the island’s health care sector and, “it will certainly help us with our Universal Healthcare Project, which we are embarking upon.”
Speaking on the pressing issue concerning the ‘brain drain’ involving nurses leaving the island to seek ‘greener pastures’ overseas , Jn. Baptiste notes that , “Clearly , all across the Caribbean our nurses are going to the United States , the United Kingdom and other countries . We are trying our very best to work with the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College [SALCC] to see how we can provide assistance to nurses who want to be trained , or to students who want to become nurses .”
Additionally, he stated, the government has been working earnestly to negotiate better working condition for nurses.
The minister explained that at several health institutions here, there are nurses working on six-month contracts, and one-year contracts “and we are working not only with the institutions, but to see what arrangements can be made so that our nurses have better working conditions.”
While admitting that the authorities are not able to compete with the overseas health institutions, he said, “We need to do better in terms of the contractual arrangements for nurses.”
Jn. Baptiste said the authorities are awaiting a report that will be submitted to cabinet, detailing procedures and mechanisms to be put in place to help remedy the situation.
He asserted: “We as a country must do all that we can …as there are many nurses who would like to stay in Saint Lucia. They have their families here and would like to purchase property in Saint Lucia and so on …but some of the arrangements are not contractual arrangements and are really not the best.”
In that respect, he added, “We want to encourage young Saint Lucians to get into the medical field …since, if you are a nurse the demand is high worldwide and we know that Saint Lucian nurses are very competent.”
Jn. Baptiste asserted, “That’s why we have to work even harder as a government to ensure that we keep the nurses, so we have a proficient medical staff.”