Minister of Health to outline when safe zones will take effect

Healthcare institutions across Barbados have started preparations for the roll-out of the COVID-19 Safe Zones designed to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the island.

But while the amended Emergency Management COVID-19 Order published on Saturday in the Official Gazette stipulated that the safe zones took effect from today, the acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Anton Best revealed on Monday that the zones would not actually operate immediately.

He said the date for the roll-out was a policy decision that would have to be addressed by Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic.

Today, the various health institutions started preparations in order to facilitate the actual functioning of the zones when the time was right, he explained.

“There is no first-day safe zones per se. It isn’t to say that we were going to start today with everything. The facilities are still getting themselves ready and being sensitized and all of that. The intention is to start with all of the health institutions, “ Dr Best told Barbados TODAY.

Meanwhile, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), the country’s main healthcare facility, has started preparations involving the various institutions and labour unions.

Executive Chairman of the QEH Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland said the board met last night and today the management team examined the new directive for the establishment of the safe zones.

“I called the other healthcare institutions and we have done consultations with the Barbados Nurses’ Association, with the National Union of Public Workers, the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners and we are due to speak to the Barbados Workers’ Union this coming Wednesday at 10 a.m.,” Bynoe-Sutherland told Barbados TODAY.

“Once we have finished our trade union consultations, then we will do our staff sensitization. We thought it important to hear from our trade union partners. We prioritized those consultations and those consultations help us shape our implementation plan,” the executive chairman announced.

She also assured Barbadians that the QEH was open to all residents who are seeking medical attention.

The executive head was responding to claims circulating on social media that the hospital was only seeing patients who are vaccinated.

“We need to give the assurance that the hospital is open to all Barbadians. We are funded by taxpayers’ dollars, so whether you are vaccinated or unvaccinated, the hospital is the space that welcomes the people who need the care,” she stated.

Earlier, Director of Medical Services Dr Clyde Cave delivered a strong rebuff to those behind the claims.

“There has been an unfortunate circulation on social media about the hospital only seeing vaccinated patients, which is absolute and utter nonsense,” he told Barbados TODAY.

“I don’t know where that came from, but I hope that there will be no conclusion preventing patients from coming to the hospital if they are ill and need our care,” he added.

The latest directive speaks to health service institutions such as nursing homes, private hospitals, senior citizens’ homes, offices of dental practitioners, doctors’ offices, all COVID-19 testing sites, quarantine and isolation facilities and all other non-governmental organisations that provide health services.

It requires the owner or operator or the person in charge of an institution to ensure that there is prominently displayed at the entrance to the institution, a notice issued by the Chief Medical Officer indicating that the institution is a safe zone.

“An employee who is fully vaccinated shall produce a copy of his vaccination card or vaccination certificate to the person in charge of the institution and that person shall keep a copy of the card or certificate which shall be retained among the records of the institution,” the guidelines state.

A person is considered fully vaccinated if they have completed a full regimen of vaccines of any of the Ministry of Health and Wellness approved COVID-19 vaccinations at least 14 days or more prior to seeking to enter or remain within the precincts of an institution.

An employee of an institution is considered at high risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19 if he works with persons who are known to be infected with COVID-19; he takes samples from persons who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19, or he cares for persons who are ill; are in nursing homes or senior citizens’ homes; or who are in a psychiatric hospital.

The measure also stipulates that an employee who is fully vaccinated must be tested for COVID-19 at least once every 42 days. An individual who is not fully vaccinated must be tested for COVID-19 at least once every seven days, or at such other intervals as the Chief Medical Officer determines.

The guidelines also state that at least 25 per cent of employees who are fully vaccinated, are required to be tested for COVID-19 once every 60 days or at such other intervals as the Chief Medical Officer determines.

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