Escalating Crime Levels in Saint Lucia Pose a Threat to Public Health – SLMDA

The Saint Lucia Medical and Dental Association is warning about the strain crime is placing on the island’s medical sector.

“Our simply beautiful island nation of Saint Lucia is facing a concerning surge in crime, a trend that not only threatens the safety of our citizens but also places an unprecedented strain on our nation’s medical sector. Recent statistics reveal a worrisome uptick in criminal activities with ten homicides already in 2024, prompting us at the Saint Lucia Medical and Dental Association (SLMDA) to address the multifaceted implications on public health,” the SLMDA noted in a statement.

Stating that the impact of the escalating crime levels extends beyond immediate safety concerns, the SLMDA adds that emergency rooms and healthcare facilities are grappling with an influx of trauma cases of varying severity resulting from violent incidents, putting an additional burden on an already stretched healthcare system. The ripple effects are many and include:

– increasing patient volume

– Increased demand on blood bank resources

– Increased emergency surgical procedures and need for ICU beds

– Extended wait times for other patients seeking emergency services – Significant strain on hospital infrastructure, physical and human resources

– Increased demand on EMT and ambulance services

According to the statement by the SLMDA, “Healthcare facilities are forced to allocate more resources to handle trauma cases, including increased staffing in emergency departments and additional medical supplies. This redirection of resources comes at a time when the world is grappling with ongoing public health challenges, making it crucial to address the root causes of the rise in crime to alleviate the strain on the medical sector.

“There is also a significant mental health impact. The fear of crime and the experience of victimization can contribute to mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Communities with high crime rates may experience heightened levels of stress and reduced overall mental well-being. The constant exposure of health care workers to these traumatic cases, breaking news to families and even threats in some cases does not bode well for the mental health of our healthcare workers. Chronic stress has been linked to the development of chronic non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer and immune system suppression. This demonstrates that the constant threat of crime poses a threat to overall physical health, which is a problem we are already battling.”

The SLMDA believes that the allocation of public health resources may shift to address the immediate consequences of crime, diverting attention and funds away from preventive measures, community health initiatives, and addressing underlying social determinants of health. Crime can lead to economic instability within communities, affecting employment opportunities and economic development. Economic hardships, in turn, can contribute to health disparities and exacerbate existing health issues.

The SLMDA urged the government of Saint Lucia and all stakeholders to unite and seek to implement a holistic approach to address the issue of crime, combining law enforcement efforts with community outreach programmes and social initiatives. We stand ready as a professional body and civil society group to assist in these efforts.

“In the face of these challenges, the people of Saint Lucia remain resilient and it is essential that we come together to safeguard the well-being of our communities. As a nation, we need to commit to implementing comprehensive strategies that address the immediate safety concerns while fostering a sustainable, secure environment for all residents. Addressing the root causes of crime, implementing effective crime prevention strategies, and fostering community resilience are crucial components of promoting public health and creating safer, healthier societies,” wrote the SLMDA.

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