The Ministry of Health is no longer informing us, via the media, about Saint Lucia’s status regarding COVID-19 cases on island. This does not mean that the Ministry is not monitoring the disease on island, because should there be a resurgence, we will know, compliments the Chief Medical Officer and her team.
The question we are asking, however, is, how does Saint Lucia expect to reverse the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, because, contrary to some political statements to the contrary, the pandemic has impacted the economy’s growth this year as it did last year.
We recall Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), saying earlier this year that if the Americas is to reverse the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries must urgently develop and implement primary health care-based systems that consider the changing epidemiological contexts and population needs of the 21st Century.
We put the question bluntly to our government: Are you urgently developing and implementing primary health care-based systems that consider the changing epidemiological contexts and this country’s population needs so as not only to reverse the impact of COVID-19 on citizens and the economy but to prepare us for the inevitable next pandemic?
We ask this question not as a form of criticism of the Government in its handling of the pandemic, since we believe the government, and in particular the Ministry of Health, has done a more than a fair job in handling the pandemic when it hit Saint Lucia in 2020. This question is asked to generate a response from the Government of Saint Lucia so as to educate and inform Saint Lucians on what the government has done and is doing to reverse the impact of the pandemic and increase resilience to the next one. This is also a call on the government to dialogue with the population on the subject of the disease even though we no longer get updates about its progression or regression on island.
We have not forgotten the profound impact on health and socioeconomic development COVID-19 had on Saint Lucia which had resulted in many Saint Lucians losing their lives to the disease.
And just like Dr. Barbosa said earlier this year, and we quote him directly, the word in bracket is ours, “I (we) cannot think of a better moment for us to take collective action on this issue.”
We recognise primary health care as an important strategy to address health challenges in Saint Lucia, hence we welcome the transformation of our wellness centers in the towns and villages into smart facilities and the development of polyclinics in key communities across the country.
We call on the government to continue prioritising the health agenda in the country, meaning ensuring that the communities do not lack resources in healthcare so that the people who need it most can attain it when they need it.
The Pan American Health Organisation is known for saying that the health systems in the region were not prepared for the pandemic. We hope that moving forward, and with the lessons the Government learnt we are now more prepared should future health emergencies cross our borders.
But more than that we hope that our health practitioners and the general population have gotten the message that vaccination coverage needs to be increased and that the elimination of communicable diseases such as HIV, TB, and malaria, must be on the front burner as we seek to expand health services on island.
Also let us devise a way, devoid of bureaucracy, to reach the most vulnerable of our population and address health disparities on island.
The words of Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization comes to mind. “Health does not start in hospitals or clinics, but in homes, schools, streets, and workplaces. As the eyes and ears of the health system, strong primary health care has a vital dual function, in helping to protect communities against both pandemics and everyday health threats.”
Many of us will be quite pleased if we know for a fact that the Government of Saint Lucia is building a resilient health system that protects, promotes, and guarantees our right to health.