Government looks outside for health workers to care for Covid-19 patients

Information Minister Melford Nicholas (file photo)
Information Minister Melford Nicholas (file photo)
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By Elesha George

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For the second time since Covid-19 was discovered in Antigua and Barbuda, the government is considering soliciting the medical assistance of a Cuban medical brigade to help manage local Covid cases.

“We know that there had been some language challenges so we may go down to a level of ensuring that those persons who come here are bilingual – competent in a second language to be English – and to be able to work in the facilities here as effectively as they possibly can,” said Cabinet spokesman and Information Minister Melford Nicholas.

Cuba has been known to dispatch its medical professionals to help countries across the world that may need those services.

In March 2020, Antigua welcomed 29 Cuban doctors to assist in the fight against Covid and now that cases are increasing, the government is considering asking the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country for further assistance.

While the administration has continuously made improvements to Antigua and Barbuda’s health infrastructure and has equipped these facilities with new technologies and machines, the country is still underprepared to manage the rapid escalation of Covid infections because health workers to care for these patients are becoming scarce.

Oxygen facilities on the island are also said to be in low supply – a problem that the health ministry is actively addressing.

“We would have already approved the procurement and purchase of our own oxygen-generating equipment to complement and augment what they’re [health officials] doing,” Nicholas said.

According to the Information Minister, the government has also been tracking a container of oxygen tanks which it anticipates will arrive on the island on Thursday.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the local human resources for health may have been adequate, but with nurses being placed on sick leave and attention needed in other areas of the healthcare system, the challenge is compounded.

“We would have provided additional risk allowances to personnel given that they are putting themselves and their families at risk but the directors at the hospital and others have indicated that they are faced with the problem of significant levels of sick leave and that presents some particular challenges,” Nicholas explained.

Since February 1, the number of confirmed cases in Antigua and Barbuda has increased from 234 to 525. Currently, 302 of these cases are active, while 10 people have died from the virus.

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